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Historical Analysis Series 




by Daniel R. Mortensen 

Office of Air Force History and U.S. Army Center of Military History 

Historical Analysis Series 



Office of Air Force History and 
U.S. Army Center of Military History 
Washington, D.C. 

Mortensen, Daniel R. 

A pattern for joint operations. 

(Historical analysis series) 

1. World War, 1939-19^5 — Campaigns—Africa, North. 

2. World War, 1939-19^5 — Aerial operations, American. 

3. Unified operations (Military science) I. Title. 
II. Series. 

D766.82.M63 1987 9kO,5h'23 87-19335 

CMH Pub 93-7 

First Printing 1987 

f^or s&lfr by the i^upGnnLGndtynt of Documents, U .S. Oov-crnmont Print-in^ ^}fficc 
Wellington, DC 20402 


This study in the Historical Analysis Series examines a subject of importance 
not only to the Army but also to the Air Force: the origin and development of 
American close air support doctrine and practice in World War It The idea for the 
study resulted from a review of the Memorandum of Understanding between the 
Army and Air Force chiefs of staff, concluded on 22 May 1984, and of the 
initiatives that emerged from that historic document, particularly Initiative 24, 
which reaffirmed the Air Force's mission to provide close air support to the Army. 
The project has been a cooperative effort between the U.S. Army Center of 
Military History and the U.S.A.F. Office of Air Force History; an Air Force 
historian was assigned to write the study under the supervision of the Center of 
Military History. The resulting work, ultimately the best judgment of the author 
based on historical evidence, is titled A Pattern for Joint Operations: World War II 
Close Air Support, North Africa . The concentration is on the North African 
campaign because that was the first major large-unit test of American ground 
armies in World War II, and in that campaign the basic system of close air support 
for American ground and air forces in World War II was first worked out. 

Close air support doctrine both then and now is critical to the services. As 
this study demonstrates, the doctrine that had been conceived and practiced prior 
to the first American battles of World War II fell apart in the mud and fog of 
Tunisia. Both air and ground commanders in 1941 recognized the necessity of close 
cooperation between the staffs and forces in joint and combined forces. What they 
had to learn in 1942 was the degree to which close air support doctrine tested that 
cooperation and required alteration. The struggle of ground and air leaders to 
define and construct a command and control system, and ultimately to allocate and 
commit precious air resources to requisite ground missions, has as many lessons 
today as it did more than forty years ago. 

We believe this study merits careful reading by all those who must plan and 
prepare for combat. 


Chief Brigadier General, U.S. Army 

Office of Air Force History Chief of Military History 

Washington, D.C. 
1 August 1987 



Daniel R. Mortensen, a historian with the Office of Air Force History, 
received his B.A. and M.A. in history from the University of California, Riverside, 
and a doctorate in 1976 from the University of Southern California (USC). He 
taught at several institutions in southern California, including USC, Pepperdine, 
and Loyola, and subsequently a course in aviation technology at the University of 
Maryland, College Park. Before coming to Washington in 1981, he served as deputy 
command historian of the Air Force Communications Command at Scott Air Force 
Base, Illinois. He specializes in the history of communications, aviation 
technology, and tactical aviation, and he has given papers on all these topics. In 
1986 he was temporarily assigned to the U.S. Army Center of Military History, to 
write this study. Currently, he is completing a history of World War II tactical 
aviation for the Office of Air Force History. 



In 198* increasing concern about joint service operations occasioned the 
Chiefs of Staff of the United States Air Force and Army to investigate interservice 
cooperation. On 22 May Generals Charles A. Gabriel and John A. Wickham, Jr., 
signed an agreement to improve the battlefield cooperation between the Air Force 
and Army. The agreement recommended thirty-one topics, or areas, called the "31 
Initiatives," for further investigation. In turn, Army and Air Force historians 
agreed that a study of the origins of modern close air support practices could help 
shed light on one particular initiative, namely, current close air support practices. 
After a preliminary investigation of research resources, the concept for this 
manuscript was redefined as a study of doctrinal formation and close air support 
practices during the important early phases of World War II. Archival records 
indicated that ground and air leaders had an abiding concern about the nature and 
practice of close air support in modern combined battle operations, and they 
compiled a long and rich record. This study combines research materials, including 
some newly discovered documents from both Arrny and Air Force archives, and it 
reflects as well the combined knowledge and effort of both Army and Air Force 

The story of events in Washington and North Africa between 1939 and mid- 
19*3, when the Allies defeated Axis forces in Tunisia, has current significance. 
The interplay of staff planning and attempts to define doctrine, the organization of 
training and field operations, and adjustments to the demands of technology should 
be instructive. Generals George C. Marshall, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Henry H. 
Arnold, George 5. Patton, Jr., Omar N. Bradley, Carl Spaatz, and other air and 
ground leaders were vitally concerned with the cohesiveness of their combined 
forces— that is, the shared understanding among the leaders in Washington and the 
commanders at theater and task force levels. Another aspect that may be of 
interest to Army students of close air support is the testing of War Department 
doctrine in the muddy terrain of Tunisia, under the constraints of "the fog of 
battle," that typified the Allied experience in North Africa. Air Force leaders may 
also find, at the very least, some value in the struggle to define command and 
control systems or in the attitudes of ground personnel, especially the latter's need 
to understand the commitment of air-to-ground tasks. 


It is altogether fitting that this study of joint air-ground operations in World 
War II should recognize the early support of those Army and Air Force people who 
found a historical analysis to be important. Army Col. David Cooper and Air 
Force Lt. Col. Edward Land of the Joint Assessment and Initiative Office; Col. 
Ken Kissell of the Chief of Staff, USAF, Staff Group; Lt. Col. Robert Frank and 
Dr. Alexander S. Cochran, Jr., of the U.S. Army Center of Military History; and 
Mr. Herman Wolk and Col. Fred Shiner of the Office of Air Force History—each in 
their own way offered encouragement for the particular subject of close air 
support and to the idea of a cross-service research project. 

Librarians and archivist at the U.S. Army Center of Military History and at 
the Office of Air Force History were particularly helpful. At the Center of 
Military History Miss Hannah Zeidlik, Ms, Barbara Williams, and Ms. Geraldine K. 
Judkins dug out historical documents and records and found books relating to the 
subject. Mr. William C. Heimdahl and M. Sgt. Roger A. Jernigan at the Office of 
Air Force History offered advice and unending effort to the search for materials. 
Finally, Mr. Hugh Howard, Mrs. Patricia Tugwell, and Mrs. Velma Jones at the 
Pentagon Library and archivists Mr. Edward 3. Reese, Mr. Wilbert B. Mahoney, and 
Ms. Teresa Hammet at the Modern Military Branch of the National Archives and 
Records Administration provided valuable research assistance in my search for 
pertinent World War II records. Special thanks is due to these competent librarians 
and archivists for their continued professional service to demanding historians as 

All those who read and reread drafts of the manuscript deserve more 
recognition than given in these few lines of credit. Much thanks will remain in my 
heart. Nevertheless, my appreciation extends to many colleagues at the Center of 
Military History: Dr. David F. Trask; Lt. Col. Robert Frank; Dr. Alexander S. 
Cochran, Jr. ; Maj. Bruce Pirnie; Dr. Edgar F. Raines, Jr.; Lt. Col. David Campbell; 
Maj. Lawrence M. Greenberg; Maj. Francis T. Julia, Jr.; and Dr. Paul J. Scheips, 
who kept me honest with the Army viewpoint and corrected by grammar. At the 
Office of Air Force History important readers and advisers included Col. Fred 
Shiner, Mr. Herman Wolk, Dr. B. Franklin Cooling, Dr. George Watson, and Dr. 
Wayne Thompson. They all expended great energy and time in their critiques of 


the manuscript. Additional advice was continually sought from Dr. Fred Beck, Dr. 
Walton Moody, Lt. Col. Vance Mitchell, and Maj. John Kreis, whose knowledgeable 
minds helped expand my understanding of the very complicated events of World 
War II Washington and North Africa. 

The individuals involved in the preparation of this study for publication also 
deserve special mention. At the Air Force they include: Dr. Fred Beck, Mrs. Anne 
E. Andarcia, Ms. Vanessa Allen, Mr. David Chenoweth, Ms. Laura L. Hutchinson, 
and Mr. Ray Del Villar. At the Army they include: Mr. John W. Elsberg; Mr. 
Arthur S. Hardyman; Ms. Linda M. Cajka who prepared the charts, maps, 
illustrations, and the cover; Mr. Robert J. Anzelmo, my editor; and last but really 
first, my project editor, Ms. Joanne M. Brignolo. 

As expected, this writer takes full responsibility for interpretations, 
omissions, and errors of fact. 


1 August 1987 






The Interwar Years 6 

Increasing Influence of the Air Arm, 1938-19*2 9 

Requirements for Hemisphere Defense 11 

Requirements for War With the Axis 13 

Doctrine for War 20 

Aircraft: Enabling the Execution of Close Air Support 24 


World War II Operations and North Africa 47 

Planning Close Air Support for North Africa 50 

Operations: TORCH Landings and the Offensive Against Tunisia 56 

Operations: Reorganization and the Second Tunisian Offensive 62 

Operations: Kasserine and a New Look at Close Air Support 70 

Close Air Support After Kasserine 83 




No. Page 

1. North Africa and the Mediterranean, 1942-1943 48 

2. TORCH Landings in Northwest Africa, 8 November 1942 54 

3. First Action in Tunisia, 16-23 November 1942 58 

4. Comparative Distances of Allied and Axis Airfields, December 1942 ..... 60 

5. American Battlefield in Southern Tunisia 64 


1. Channels of Tactical Control of Combat Aviation in Typified 

Air Support Command 21 

2. Allied Command Relationships in North Africa and the 

Mediterranean, March 1943 74 


1. Curtiss A-18s 29 

2. Douglas A-20 29 

3. Douglas B-18s 30 

4. Martin A-22 30 

5. Northrop A- 17 31 

6. North American B-25 "Mitchell" 32 

7. Martin B-26 "Maurader" 32 

8. Douglas 0-43 33 

9. North American 0-47 34 

10. Curtiss 0-52 34 


No . Page 

11. Taylorcraft 0-57 35 

12. Stinson 0-f9 36 

13. RyanO-51 . 36 

H. Lockheed P-38 "Lightning" 37 

15. Bell P-39 "Airacobra" 37 

1 6. Curtiss P-40 "Kittyhawk" 38 

17. North American A-36 38 

18. Douglas A-2^ 39 

19. Curtiss A-25 39 

20. Curtiss C-46 "Commando" 40 

21. Douglas C-47 "Gooney Bird" 40 

22. Air Superiority 80 

23. Interdiction 81 

2<f. Close Air Support 82 

Unless otherwise indicated, all illustrations are from U.S. Air Force files. 




During World War II (1939-45), as today, close air support had a special 
notoriety among the many tactical aviation missions. An investigation of events 
and issues significant to close air support should illustrate its importance in modern 
warfare, as well as its complex nature that caused great command problems during 
battlefield operations. Close air support was affected by rapidly changing world 
events as the nation's military focus shifted from a peacetime to prewar status — a 
position of cautious defensiveness that involved preparing for a hemisphere 
defense — and then, in December 1941, from a prewar to wartime status— a position 
of total of fensiveness in Europe and the Far East. Other factors affecting the 
importance and effectiveness of close air support included the accelerating 
incidence of mobility, mechanization, and firepower in military operations 
concepts; the performance of improved aircraft; and the decisions to make greater 
use of air resources in battle. Close air support issues that captured the greatest 
attention of the War Department staff and field commanders were usually 
concerned with identifying aircraft and personnel resources, and their subsequent 
allocation and control. The latter was especially important in terms of target and 
mission selection. Most air force leaders felt that air resources could contribute 
more if used to attack enemy aircraft and ground targets away from the heavily 
defended battlefield. Most field commanders wanted control of air firepower so 
that they could mass forces for the ground battle; they wanted close support 
aviation resources, particularly observation and defensive fighter aircraft, to be 
considered organic to the battlefield and to be commanded by field commanders. 
While close air support produced and symbolized a struggle between the air and 
ground arms of the Army, the senior leaders sought to counterbalance the 
divisiveness by fostering the idea that subordinate commanders must encourage 
consensus, cohesion, and cooperation. There were challenges enough just learning 
to cooperate with the Allies on the ultimate defeat of a determined enemy. 
Branches of the Army should work toward an effective command front. The 
problems and compromises that followed indicate that this story of close air 
support during World War II has a very modern flavor and relevance. 

In the late 1930s close air support was meshed into a general category known 


in the prewar doctrinal manuals as "aviation in support of ground forces."* Tactical 
aviation, then, included all the specialties that, even today, support the ground 
forces. Tasks included troop transport, air supply, long-distance reconnaissance, 
defending against enemy aircraft (especially by maintaining air superiority), and 
disruption of enemy supply and communications, as well as the tactical tasks 
associated with close air support. The latter included battlefield observation and 
liaison, defense of the battlefield and friendly territory from enemy aircraft, and 
bombing and strafing of enemy forces and weapons in the immediate vicinity of 
battlefield operations. With a change in the military mission to fit Western 
Hemisphere defense priorities by 1939, and with the development of faster and 
bigger aircraft, the War Department modified the concepts for employment of 
tactical aviation. Close air support, in particular, was devalued in doctrinal 

After September 1939, as war ensued in Western Europe, the ground arms of 
the Army saw a greater need for all kinds of air support and, in thus subsequently 
stressed their desire for close air support. This happened at a time when the air 
arm thinking and aviation technology suggested that aircraft operations over the 
modern battlefield would not be effective or practical. Aircraft were too 
vulnerable to enemy antiaircraft fire and could not be easily replaced. Close air 
support became even more marked as a particularly distinctive, troublesome, and 
complex issue. Even with advancing technology, designing support aircraft proved 
difficult. Disagreement and debate about doctrine increased; consequently, 

*The prewar and early war manuals did not use the term "close air support." See 
Air Corps Field Manual 1-5, Employment of Aviation of the Army, 15 April 1940, 
which suggested support aviation is poorly suited for direct attacks. "The hostile 
rear area is the normal zone of action of support aviation. . . ." War Department 
Training Circular, The Army Air Force— Basic Doctrine, 24 July 1941, declared 
that operations "in close co-operation with the other arms of the mobile Army" 
were secondary to interdiction and air superiority missions against invaders of the 
Western Hemisphere; and War Department Basic Field Manual 31-35, Aviation in 
Support of the Ground Forces, 9 April 1942, discussed "immediate" and "more 
distant" targets. Reports from air-ground tests held as early as January 1941 
suggested that the airmen and ground force leaders both understood the modern 
limits and capabilities of close support aviation. They argued among themselves 
over the implications of a War Department directive that called for compromise 
and cooperation in modernizing air-ground doctrine. 


development of operational procedures stalled in long debates that could not be 
satisfied in the many field exercises held to test the debated doctrinal ideas. All 
the while air leaders gained a greater say about aviation matters, both those 
dealing with support of ground operations and those connected to strategic air 
warfare operations. Whatever the Army Air Forces mission, its rising influence 
and growing independence challenged the cohesion of command and pointed to the 
need for a new consensus among coequal air and ground component commanders. 



Organization, Doctrine, and Weapons for Close 
Air Support 

The Infer war Years 

In the interwar years (1919-38) the United States Army Air Corps considered 
general air support of ground forces a prime mission function. Air support aviation 
underwent dramatic changes in these years as airmen and other military and 
civilian thinkers offered new ideas on the application of air power to warfare. 
Students and faculty, thinking about air doctrine at the Air Corps Tactical School, 
Maxwell Field, Alabama, represented the air arm's greatest effort to project 
aviation into modern warfare. Because of their concern with air support, the 
scholars at Maxwell outlined battlefield tactics that combined aircraft, tanks, 
trucks, and mobile field artillery. By 1935 the close air support facet of air 
support became diffused in a broader, multipurpose conceptualization of air 
support for the ground, one that included interdiction and air defense roles. The 
Maxwell scholars began pointing to some revolutionary changes in control of air 
support aviation: airmen centrally controlling air assets in support of the ground; 
the air commander not necessarily auxiliary to the ground force commander; and 
the air force as a full combat arm, coordinate with the Army. With the rise of 
deadly antiaircraft fire, airmen began to discount their ability to provide close air 

New mission potentials for aviation, especially coastal defense and long- 
range bombing tasks, promised further absorption of air support resources. Quite 
often Air Corps ideas, especially those dealing with independent strategic missions, 
ran counter to concepts developed at the Army Command and General Staff School 
at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and the Army War College, then in Washington. One 
idea explored by the airmen at Maxwell and credited to William Mitchell was that 
bombers alone could stop a naval force. Another, attributed to the famed Italian 
prophet of the air Giulio Douhet, suggested that fleets of bombers, air power alone, 
could force an enemy nation to surrender. ? 

As with air arm officers, the ground officers thought about the new 
mechanization of war. Vigorous debate occurred between air and ground officers, 
one time in public, as in the Billy Mitchell case. Occasionally the discussion 
suggested to other branches of the Army that the Air Corps was reluctant about air 


support in general, not close air support alone. For the most part, ground leaders 
firmly held to the traditional concept that a ground army was necessary to defeat 
an enemy force and capture territory; the air arm was primarily an auxiliary force 
to further the ground force mission. Through the mid-thirties ground officers, 
having the advantage of tenure, held the leadership mantle in the General Staff and 
in the field. Although some of these ground staff officers understood the changes 
in aviation and although some air doctrine that Air Corps leaders regarded as 
progressive was published, ground-oriented sensibilities controlled the publication 
of War Department doctrine. Generally, combat arms schools chose not to include 
even the most elementary new air power thinking in their curriculum, forestalling 
the education of ground officers at a time when air force roles were gaining 
importance in military forces worldwide. By the mid-thirties leaders of the Army 
General Staff, intent on preparing an army for quick mobilization in case of 
invasion, gave the Air Corps responsibility to organize a combat ready air force. In 
1935 the Air Corps organized the General Headquarters (GHQ) Air Force to carry 
out the function. 3 

In the minds of some ground officers, giving airmen greater command and 
control authority for a long strike or bombing force only sharpened their desire to 
control all air functions. But the formation of GHQ Air Force did not include 
independence comparable to that of the Royal Air Force. GHQ Air Force was 
subordinate to the Army chief of staff, or his field commander in case of overseas 
activity.'* A new training regulation, TR 440-15, Employment of the Air Forces of 
the Army, 15 October 1935, codified the new Air Corps mission, but also showed 
how a compromise had been worked out between extreme air and ground views on 
air arm operational independence. If the air forces might conduct air operations in 
an independent manner against an invading force before ground armies made 
contact, TR 440-15 reaffirmed Army doctrine that "air forces further the mission 
of the territorial or tactical commander to which they are assigned or attached." 5 

More important to understanding the changing concept of close air support, 
publication of TR 440-15 represented clear concessions to the air doctrine 
developed over the years at the Air Corps Tactical School. Employment principles 
discussed in the manual included: emphasis on offensive action, need for central 
coordination of resources, constant and primary attention to destruction of the 


enemy's air force, priority for preparation of air forces that would usually precede 
ground forces into battle, and expectation that air forces would be concentrated 
against a primary objective "not dispersed or dissipated in minor or secondary 
operations." 6 

So that the strength of the air forces would not be frittered away, the 
regulation contained a corollary principle, long promoted by the air forces, 
cautioning against operations over the battlefield. Enemy troops would be securely 
fortified and protected against enemy air with effective antiaircraft guns. Ground 
support operations could be conducted rather in an air defense mode, protecting 
troops against enemy aircraft. Air operations could interdict concentration of 
enemy forces, attack communications and ammunition dumps, and harass the 
enemy's retreat. A primary concern of the ground commanders, to have bombing 
forces available to attack a dug-in enemy or an enemy artillery piece, was not 
addressed. Even observation operations in the immediate battle areas were not 
stipulated in the regulation. That commanders in the field would have to interpret 
the regulations was clearly intended. The Air Corps' unofficial doctrine had not 
won full acceptance; but, for the first time, the War Department had opened the 
door. 7 

In the late thirties the subject of close air support continued to be secondary 
to more important problems of national war planning. For example, the attention 
given to the rise of Adolf Hitler's power in Germany and the close association 
among Germany, Italy, and Japan in 1938 pointed doctrinal thinking towards a 
different defense concern. War planners feared that an unfriendly foreign power 
would use Canada or a South American nation as a jumping board to an invasion of 
the United States. The air arm began to concentrate offensive planning for 
operations against such an enemy force in the Western Hemisphere. The Air Corps 
Tactical School instruction increasingly emphasized the importance of long-range 
bombers, independent strike forces, and industrial targeting. 

Air planners worried about close air support aircraft, and directed their 
concern towards finding an aircraft that would be compatible with modern 
European war practices. The main experimental attention was given to bigger and 
faster "attack" types. New models would carry more munitions and have greater 
speed and defensive armament. This kind of aircraft meant obsolescence of the 


traditional close support role—flying low and slow to find precise targets, yet still 
avoiding enemy guns. In the new operational parameters, the latest attack aircraft 
would not be able to hit the precise targets usually associated with close support 
aviation. The Air Corps could find no satisfactory airplane type to provide that 
close-in service desired by the infantry commander on the battlefield.^ 

Increasing Influence of the Air Arm, 1938-1942 

In November 1938, concerned about Hitler's bullying of major European 
nations at Munich to gain the Sudetenland for Germany, and the expansion and 
quality of European air forces, President Franklin D. Roosevelt opened wide the 
door to an Army aviation revolution. Whatever the views of the War Department, 
the president wanted to comply with English and French requests for American 
aircraft, and he thought by expanding the Air Corps the aircraft industry would 
produce more for everyone. On the fourteenth he called a group of his military 
leaders to the White House. Generals Malin Craig, Army chief of staff, George C. 
Marshall, deputy chief of staff, and Henry H. Arnold, chief of the Air Corps, were 
among those summoned. The president said he wanted an appropriate force for 
protection of the Western Hemisphere against the menacing intentions of Germany 
and Italy. He wanted the Army Air Corps, modernized with the latest combat 
aircraft, to be that force. 9 

If there was ever an event that changed World War II close air support, this 
was it. Congress debated the aviation issue for a few months, and then in early 
1939 it gave the Air Corps the first in a series of very large budget increases. The 
presidential and congressional attention helped inflate Air Corps prestige, giving it 
special rank among the Army combat arms. The new status pointed to prospective 
independence from a subordinate position in a field army, and fostered a view that 
air-ground operations would have to be thought of in terms of joint command 
relations. At the very least, the new influence gave the Air Corps greater leverage 
to argue its view of ground support aviation as well as other military aviation 
functions. 10 

The case for the air arm did not develop without counterarguments. For one, 
the War Department convinced Congress to increase spending for all military 
forces. In 1939 Congress appropriated large sums for Army expansion and 


modernization, as well as for aviation. Secondly, with the onset of World War II in 
September the ground force leaders, impressed by the extensive use of aircraft in 
the warfare, increasingly desired more aircraft as they updated ground warfare 
plans. When the part played by the dive bombers in the stunning German Army 
victories was publicized, the ground arms raised their demand for air support and 
specialized aircraft for close air support. Diverging viewpoints, strongly 
expressed, called for concession and accommodation. 11 

General Marshall's leadership did not antagonize the air officers, as did some 
of his chief of staff predecessors. From the airmen's point of view, Marshall was a 
true leader of a modern air-ground team. He stood out as a promoter of 
compromise and cooperation in this time of rapid change in ground and air 
relationships. He helped institutionalize some differences within the General Staff 
so that debates were not always publicized as interbranch struggles. Some issues 
had interbranch proponents and opponents: ground as well as air officers who 
wanted greater attention given to close air support versus their counterparts who 
accepted emphasis on interdiction; or advocates for centralized control versus 
those who wanted air assets controlled at a lower command level. 

Marshall understood more about aviation than most ground generals. Over 
the years he had been a student of air power. In 1938, when he first arrived in 
Washington, he accompanied Maj. Gen. Frank M. Andrews, then commander of the 
GHQ Air Force (the operational command of the Air Corps) on a tour of 
continental air facilities. As deputy chief of staff, in 1939, he and Chief of the Air 
Corps Arnold, together, "worked out the details of an entire air plan for the War 
Department." 12 When he assumed chief of staff duties in September 1939, 
Marshall gave positions on the Army General Staff to large numbers of air officers. 
As well respected as he was, the appointment of Andrews as assistant chief of staff 
for operations (G-3), then later as commander of the Panama Defense Command, 
turned heads among old Army leaders. Andrews became the first air officer to 
hold the positions normally given to ground officers. Marshall made it a point to 
appoint staff officers and field commanders who knew about the changes in air 
warfare. 13 

Working hard to reconcile the differences between air and ground officers, 
Marshall took the position that the air forces needed to operate with a large degree 


of autonomy. He validated the functional distinctiveness of and gave great 
independence to the air forces when he approved an Air Staff for Arnold. In 19<fQ 
and 19M he and Arnold saw eye-to-eye on the long-argued issue of independence 
for air forces. While many air advocates, in and out of the military, urged 
independence along the Royal Air Force model, Marshall and Arnold agreed that 
existing war conditions prevented such a radical reorganization. Still, with the 
rapid growth of the Army, these leaders understood the need to rely on 
subordinates, and they gave the staff officers lots of rein and field commanders 
increased autonomy— supplementary prerogatives of command—especially in 
operational matters. Arnold kept his word, not advocating an independent 
organization for the air forces while war continued. It was only natural for him, 
however, to work consistently for greater influence of the air arm. Technically, 
Arnold had no command authority over field operations, but found enough 
flexibility in the wartime Army General Staff and field commands to affect air 
operations around the world. The rising stock of aviation gave him, and other air 
leaders, more say in the development of air-ground doctrine. 1* 

Requirements for Hemisphere Defense 

The German attack on Poland in September 1939 vitalized military thinking 
about air warfare and particularly sharpened interest in support aviation. The War 
Department sent officers of all grades and branches to Europe to observe events 
and send back reports. Concurrent with events in Poland, Harry H. Woodring, the 
secretary of war, named Arnold to form a board of officers, representing the 
various Army branches, and to report on the projected employment of an air force. 
On 1 September the body produced the Air Board Report. Shortly thereafter, 
Marshall asked for a new statement of air doctrine based on this report. When it 
was published the following spring, the Air Corps Field Manual (FM) 1-5, 
Employment of Aviation of the Army, was essentially, like the Air Board Report, a 
compromise document. It referred to major Air Corps principles, such as the need 
for air superiority and centralized command. The traditional principle of air 
warfare as an offensive weapon was not emphasized because war planning was still 
geared to the likelihood of a Western Hemisphere defense. The function of 


reconnaissance and liaison air units continued to be that of supporting the ground 
forces, and the air units retained their permanent assignment under ground force 
commands. The manual also identified the major air missions for combat or 
weapons-carrying aircraft under the GHQ Air Force. Along with long-range 
offensive strikes, air defense against enemy air forces, and miscellaneous patrol 
and escort functions, the manual listed air support tasks of deep interdiction and 
"air operations in immediate support of ground forces." 15 

The ground branches' views were also included in FM 1-5. The air forces 
were clearly divided by specialized function, including specially identified support 
units, to prevent the GHQ Air Force from overlooking ground support missions as 
seemed possible with long-range bombardment strike tasks being assigned high 
priority. The ground officers did not want air units being detached from the GHQ 
Air Force at the last minute. Rather, they wanted a support aviation force 
identified as a theater of operations weapon, generally tasked by the higher theater 
commander. Because in the Western Hemisphere defense war planning ground 
action was less probable, the ground forces accepted forming a small cadre air 
support force. This support force would be formed into "a nucleus of aviation 
especially trained in direct support of ground troops and designated for rapid 
expansion to meet war requirements. In peacetime this aviation will serve as a 
small, immediately available force for use in minor emergencies and as a 
laboratory for the continuous development of methods for its employment." 16 

The Air Corps also gained exposure for its views in this 19^0 field manual. 
FM 1-5 included surprisingly modern air support concepts, some of which would be 
shelved when the forces organized for the first test of battle in North Africa. For 
example, a "two-hatted" concept was employed to explain the air leader's 
simultaneous command of air units and service to the ground commander. "As a 
commander, he commands all Air Corps troops. ... As a staff officer, he is the 
immediate assistant to the (ground) commander and adviser of his staff on all 
aviation matters." The manual recognized the weakness of aviation in attacking 
battlefront enemy troops. "Support aviation is not employed against objectives 
which can be effectively engaged by available ground weapons . . . , [and] aviation 
is poorly suited for direct attacks against small detachments or troops which are 


well entrenched or disposed." The manual suggested that the maximum 
effectiveness of support aviation "is secured through centralized control." Further, 
"combined operations of air and ground forces must be closely coordinated by the 
commander of the combined force and all operations conducted in accordance with 
a well-defined plan." Then, recognizing the constraint of limited air resources, the 
manual stated that operations in immediate support of ground forces are conducted 
during the critical phases of combat and prior to and at the conclusion of battle." 17 

Requirements for War With the Axis 

Enunciating principles of close air support in April 1940 did not address the 
complex details and problems of joint air-ground cooperation. The success of 
Germany's combined arms— first in Poland, then in Western Europe during the 
spring of 19^0 — encouraged Congress to support further air force expansion and 
reorganization and a reevaluation of tactical doctrine. A force in being needed 
more specific procedures for joint operations than were outlined in FM 1-5. 
Marshall directed Andrews and his G-3 staff to study the issue anew. In September 
Andrews issued a memorandum that listed five kinds of air support for ground 
forces: close air support, air defense of friendly forces and installations, rear area 
attack, paratroop support, and reconnaissance services. Andrews recommended 
joint air-ground tests to evaluate the concepts, especially the first two, which 
required the greatest effort in coordination. After a struggle over timing of 
exercises, Marshall directed Lt. Gen. Lesley 3. McNair, chief of staff of GHQ (a 
commander's headquarters for all field forces), to conduct a series of exercises. 

From 19^1 to 1944, as commander of GHQ and Army Ground Forces, McNair 
was responsible, with Arnold, for joint development of air support, tactical training 
and doctrine. McNair organized exercises that brought together various air and 
ground units to experiment with timing and innovative team combinations. More 
than other Army training or operations officers, he promoted teamwork and 
cooperation. More than most, he patiently suffered through the continuing 
teething problems generated by the joining together of the different combat arms. 
He criticized self-serving attitudes from the air and ground branches. He was 
especially disturbed by the air force tendency towards independence. He 


repudiated the view of some air officers that the air arm could win a war by itself, 
thereby justifying independence. He also opposed division commanders who 
demanded control of their own air resources, and he relentlessly endorsed the 
unity-of-command principle.^ 

Marshall also advocated consistently the elementary Army concept that unity 
of command was paramount for success in battle. Lessons of war suggested to him 
the need for a unified command structure. He remarked that the German victories 
in Poland and the Low Countries were founded on "creation of a single high 
military command for all forces, whether of the land, sea or the air. ... In fact 
the key to the military success of Germany in the present war has not been the 
operation of the air forces on an independent basis but rather the subordination of 
air power to the supreme command of the armed forces. , . i*f 

Arnold believed that strategic bombardment should be a primary ingredient in 
the battle with the Axis powers, but he too espoused unity of command, although 
perhaps never with the fervor of a potential field or theater commander, such as 
McNair and Marshall, and certainly with a different definition of centralized 
command in the separate arms. Arnold made persistent efforts to satisfy ground 
force complaints and solve air support problems. As with Marshall and other 
commanding officers, he had many essential tasks to perform, and close air support 
was only one of the air facets that crossed his desk. One example of his concern 
occurred in 1941, when the Army Air Forces was created to give the air forces 
greater autonomy. Against the advice of staff members, Arnold designated, for 
the first time in air arm history, a formal advocate for air support. Col. William E. 
Lynd became the first head of the Air Support Section of the Air Force Combat 
Command (successor to the GHQ Air Force in June 1941). He could focus attention 
towards the air-ground team when most needed, just as the rising expectations for 
war and emphasis in air matters turned towards strategic air warfare.^ 

With the dramatic force expansion in 1941 and reorganizations necessary to 
improve command and control, Arnold identified a distinct organization for air 
support. In the new organization the Army Air Forces copied the British idea of 
numbered air forces "on a Theater of Operations principle," to provide higher- 
echelon leadership. These air forces would contain specific types of commands, 
such as bomber commands and fighter commands. The command organization 


reflected the hope that placing aircraft types together would simplify training, 
maintenance, and logistics. 

The new organization included "air support commands" to "secure the closest 
type of cooperation with the ground forces." 21 Initially, the air support commands 
were filled only with air units providing battlefield observation services. Later, 
in 19^2, fighters, dive bombers, and medium and light bombers were placed under 
the air support command structure to improve air support capability. At GHQ 
McNair accepted the principles of flexibility and massing of forces, which the air 
forces stressed; but, with the emergence of mechanized warfare, he worried about 
specialization in the air and ground arms. He felt that the inclusion of different 
types of aircraft, as well as the variable unit combinations, added to command 
confusion. 22 For a number of months McNair was unhappy with formation of the 
air support commands, which he declared was "one more step in the separation of 
the air from the rest of the Army." 2 3 

Lt. Gen. D. C. Emmons, commander of Air Force Combat Command, felt 
otherwise. He envisioned an air-ground section of a proposed air support command 
headquarters being physically located with McNair at GHQ. In addition, he 
proposed that cooperation would be enhanced by locating subordinate air support 
commands "at airdromes nearest to the headquarters of the forces with which they 
will work." 2 * Further study by the General Staff and the Air Council* confirmed 
that this organization, with its staff and command, was suitable to overcome the 
reservations of the ground forces. McNair and air staff officers also agreed that 
air support service entailed more than just air support command operations and 
that "all classes of combat aviation of the Army Air Forces must be trained and 
indoctrinated in performance of the Air Force mission, and in support of the ground 
and naval forces." 2 ^ The directive that approved the air support commands stated 
that not only would all aircraft types and units "be trained and used in the support 

*Formed in March 19<tl along with the Army Air Forces, the council's function was 
to review and coordinate major aviation projects. It consisted of the assistant 
secretary of war for air, the chief of Army Air Forces, the chief of the War Plans 
Division of the General Staff, the chief of the Air Corps, the commanding general 
of the Air Force Combat Command, and others as appointed by the secretary of 


of ground forces" but that units organic to the air support commands would not 
"constitute the sole air support of the ground operations." 26 

While the War Department expected the reorganization of the Army Air 
Forces to improve air-ground cooperation, events pointed to a reduced potential 
for the close air support facet of air support. In the fall of 19<tl the War 
Department transferred some aviation observation and liaison units and their 
functions to the operational control of field artillery commands. Only procurement 
and major maintenance of these units were kept under Army Air Forces 
responsibility. Not only would the Army Air Forces be less involved in the close air 
support aspect by transfer of observation units to artillery, but reports from 
Europe encouraged the Army Air Forces to begin allocating fast fighters and 
bombers to observation units that they still controlled. The faster aircraft 
suggested less capability for covering the small-scale, individualized target 
assignments requested by the ground commanders. 

Organization of the theater-echelon air forces— the Twelfth Air Force as an 
example— and their wide variety of air missions presented a probability of reduced 
close air support capability. All types of combat commands and all major combat 
types of aircraft were included in these numbered air forces. How the increased 
importance of the theater echelon diminished prospects for close air support can be 
illustrated by Marshall's air policy statement in 19*1. In his list of "Basic 
Principles of Employment of the Air Component of the Army in the Order of Their 
Priority" close air support ranked fifth in priority out of seven potential missions. 
Interdiction of enemy armies and air forces, air superiority, and attack on enemy 
shipping had higher priorities than "close cooperation with other arms of the mobile 
army. . . ," 27 While Marshall's statement was made with reference to Western 
Hemisphere defense thinking, the turn to European war planning did not necessarily 
signify a change in the falling priority of close air support. 28 

Battlefield commanders faced a situation where their supporting air 
resources were controlled at a higher-echelon command that had different 
priorities. Control of most air units in a theater was projected as the domain of 
the theater commanders. This included transports for dropping paratroopers and 
supplies; observation aircraft to provide theater observation, reconnaissance, and 


liaison; and the combat bombers and fighters to attack enemy aviation, troop 
centers, and communication choke points, as well as enemy troops on the 
immediate front of the ground forces. This left only the air support commands, of 
uncertain constitution in 1941-42, to be controlled by battlefield commanders. 29 

Air and ground leaders were uneasy at this division of air force resources. 
For example, the assistant air chief of staff for plans, Brig. Gen. Orvil Anderson, 
spoke for several leading airmen who felt that any division of the limited and 
valued air resources weakened the military principle of mass employment. Ground 
commanders in training argued for larger relative allocation of resources for the 
air support commands. Now—and throughout the war— Army field commanders and 
staff officers, in training and combat, complained that the Army Air Forces failed 

Testing of these concepts during the series of War Department maneuvers in 
1941 was hurt by a shortfall of aircraft and trained squadrons. The maneuver 
planners, air-ground coordinators, and troop commanders were frustrated when the 
Army Air Forces did not provide adequate numbers of aircraft for practical testing 
of air support coordination. McNair also noted that the ground forces failed to 
employ the limited number of available aircraft realistically. Arnold explained 
that diverting squadrons from training to the maneuvers would seriously delay 
training schedules. Ground force planners were not conscious of the requirements 
of a year-long training program, just for basic pilot instruction. Marshall sided 
with Arnold but ordered him to compromise and strip some aircraft and personnel 
from training squadrons. The exercises became more complex through the summer 
and fall, but ultimately no one was satisfied with the artificiality of aircraft 
employment, even in the important Louisiana and Carolina maneuvers in late 

As exercise director, McNair now appreciated the necessity for the air and 
ground forces to emphasize basic instructions within their respective branches in 
the months ahead. He accepted the idea that pilots had to learn to fly and shoot 
before training with the ground troops. In December 1941 he and Arnold proposed 
another series of maneuvers for 1942 to exercise the joint air-ground relationship. 
The declaration of war abruptly curtailed these plans, as well as many other plans 
for a smooth buildup of forces. 


Air support command structure and concepts for close air support were 
seriously disrupted throughout 1942. 32 Arnold noted in mid-February that close air 
support units "are still wallowing around looking for someone who takes an interest 
in them and in their activities." 33 Even as late as September, when large numbers 
of forces were committed to combat, Maj. Gen. Jacob L. Devers, commander of 
armored forces, told Arnold that there was no air-ground support training: "We are 
simply puttering. Cannot something be done about it?" 3 '* 

By late 19*2, as operations captured more firmly the attention of air and 
ground staff planners and field commanders, a number of problems affected the 
quality and quantity of air support. Roosevelt showed his support of the Allies by 
calling for production of large quantities of American aircraft, thereby 
constricting the flow of airplanes available to air force commands. With war 
declared, air units were hurriedly concentrated and rearranged. Operational 
necessities decimated air support and air cooperation demonstration units. For 
example, the Army Air Forces disbanded the Third Air Support Command to help 
fill the needs of the newly formed Eighth Air Force to be based in England. The 
Army Air Forces eliminated the Fifth Air Support Command and redesignated it 
the Ninth Air Force in April 19*2. The War Department removed two of the four 
air support commands from training and put them into coastal patrol duties to help 
combat the German submarine offensive against the East and Gulf Coasts. 

Marshall, responding to organizational inadequacies revealed by the time of 
Pearl Harbor, reorganized the General Staff in March 19*2. General Headquarters 
became Army Ground Forces, and both the Army Ground Forces and Army Air 
Forces gained greater independence of action. The reorganization also raised the 
level of suspicion between air and ground officers. Ground officers knew that the 
air force officers eyed jealously the British model for air-ground support. In the 
Royal Air Force the air units were not attached to ground commanders at any 
level. The air commander made the decisions on use of air support resources. 

Air and ground leaders were also at odds over the air force insistence on 
training bomber units in strategic and interdiction bombing techniques before 
training them to support the ground forces. As a result, the Army Air Forces then 
declared that with time running short, fighter and medium bomber pilots would not 
receive army support training. The ground arms commands were also suspicious of 


the name changes given to air units designated to provide close air support (ground- 
air support command, ground support command, air support command). In turn, 
some ground commanders asked for the formation of a dedicated ground support air 
force, fearing that support would not come any other way. In spite of their felt 
needs, this request suggested a lack of appreciation for the complexities of air 
operations. It also went in the face of a principle held by some of the staff in 
Washington that modern ground force units should be more flexible and less 
encumbered with responsibilities, such as managing air unit operations. 3 ^ 

The air forces modified the types of aircraft assigned air support units 
several times in 19^2, adding light bombers and then dive bombers, medium 
bombers and fighters, giving the ground commander potential access to better 
ground attack resources. But the problem of giving ground troops realistic air 
support training continued through the remainder of 19^2. In reality, there simply 
were not enough bases, aircraft, or time as the demands of war overrode 
expectations of proper training. Even the air representatives at the growing 
number of ground force schools and training facilities complained about poor air 
support training exercises because of a deficiency in aircraft numbers. 

McMair showed an appreciation of this dilemma, accepting the shortage 
problem with aircraft and pilots. Arnold agreed that "priority commitments, 
special diversions, and restricted flow of aircraft to Army Air Forces have 
prevented [the] fullest desirable allocation of combat aviation for . . . Ground-Air 
Support training." 3 *> Somewhat optimistically, Arnold and McNair saw 
improvements for 19^3, but American forces were committed without realistic air- 
ground training during the confused buildup subsequent to the invasion of North 
Africa. 37 

Many changes in Army aviation between mid-19^0 and mid-19^2 affected 
close air support. Most important was acquisition of a strategic mission to bomb a 
potential enemy's war-making industry that encouraged greater control of air 
resources by airmen. A reorganization of air units into air forces similar to 
European air force models not only precipitated greater centralized control by 
airmen but also divided attention originally given to close air support and other 
ground support matters. The airmen compensated by organizing both special air 
support commands to consolidate units providing close air support for the ground 


forces and by forming a headquarters staff office dedicated to air support and 
relations between air and ground arms. Air and ground leaders discussed the 
meshing of forces in a potential European war scenario and the War Department 
held exercises to test new theories. With time at a premium in 19<f2, subsequent to 
the buildup of forces for operations, the War Department could not insist on 
realistic air-ground training even if there was a great need for better 
understanding between air and ground forces. 

Doctrine for War 

In spite of limitations, planners and commanders used the 1941 maneuvers as 
the basis, along with observers' reports from Europe, for a final doctrinal 
statement on air support prior to committing large numbers of American ground 
forces to combat. As with FM 1-5 in the previous year, the new War Department 
manual, FM 31-35, Aviation in Support of Ground Forces, published 9 April 19^2, 
was a joint effort, produced by ground and air representatives. By contrast, 
however, they were more concerned with the organization than with the techniques 
of air support. They offered no plans for battlefield operations and no priority for 
targets or missions. Finally, they equivocated about close air support: "Air 
support targets on the immediate front or flanks of supported units are generally 
transitory targets of opportunity." In this instance they recommended the dive 
bomber as the proper aircraft type for close air support, although the air leaders 
had clearly stated that the dive bomber would be ineffective in close air support 
where the enemy had good defenses. The manual suggested that deep interdiction 
targets were the airman's choice. 38 

Neither were the manual writers clear about the sensitive aspects of the 
command relationship in joint operations (Chart 1 ). In one aspect they were 
relatively straightforward: He— that is, the air support commander— was "habitually 
attached to or supports an army in the theater." Wearing the command hat, he had 
direct control of all aircraft units, carrying out the general tasking orders from an 
army or task force commander. Wearing the staff hat, he served as the army staff 
air support specialist, giving advice and suggestions to the ground arm officers 
about employment of aircraft in the ground operations. At both levels, command 


Chart 1 — Channels of Tactical Control of Combat Aviation in Typified 

Air Support Command 





1 Div 


Normal ground force command 

^— — — Air support control 
----- Direct control 

Source : War Department Basic Field Manual 31-35, Aviation in Support of Ground Forces, 9 Apr 42, p.4. 

and staff, the air commander was allowed to practice his specialty, and mutual 
understanding and cooperation was encouraged. According to the manual, "the 
basis of effective air support of ground forces is teamwork. The air and ground 
units in such operations in fact form a combat team. Each member of the team 
must have the technical skill and training to enable it to perform its part in the 
operation and a willingness to cooperate thoroughly."^ 

The problem of cooperative relationship among lower-echelon commanders 
had proved to be the irresolvable issue, and here the manual writers were 
ultimately and purposefully evasive. The Army Ground Forces field command 
organization of army, corps, division, and combat teams was distinguishable from 
the Army Air Forces command organization of numbered air force, air support 
command, and bomber, fighter, and reconnaissaince groups and squadrons. Thus air 
and ground organizations each had its own chain of command. Although ground and 
air units exchanged liaison officers, by doctrine the lowest level of command 
decisions were made (whether to fly a mission or not) at the army level. Below 
that, subordinate ground commanders only requested, and not ordered, air support. 
Except in rare cases when air units were temporarily attached to a ground unit, a 
request for air support from a company on the line had to travel through battalion, 
regimental, division, and corps command sections before it reached the army 
commander or his delegated substitute, the air support commander, who could 
authorize sending the fighter or bomber squadrons into action.* 

This centralization of air command came out of a principle held by air force 
officers — one that found air resources too valuable to lose in everyday operations. 
They talked in terms of flexibility and mass employment. An air unit was an 
expensive and vulnerable air resource requiring rationing by attachment to the 
highest field command level. The rationale here was based on the reality that 
close air support planes were expensive, nonexpendable machines and that pilots 
were trained at great expense and time. A ground commander would not be able to 
have his own air resources. By October 1941 McNair had accepted the 
technological and training limitations of aviation, and he agreed that air resources 
needed to be under central management. In addition, he argued for the 
centralization concept, because central control was needed to attain air superiority 
and because he feared lower-echelon commanders would waste resources. Thus he 


fought against decentralization, favored by the field commanders, even though it 
promised speedier response time. Indeed, ground commanders perceived the long 
command and control communications chain in a centralized system as a guarantee 
of slow air assistance. 

Generally, the doctrine acknowledged that the air support commander was an 
expert in aviation practices and that his airplanes, a scarce resource, would be 
employed under his direction against the most important target of the ground unit 
in combat, as decided by the highest ground level commander. In reaction, 
subordinate field commanders tenaciously expressed dissatisfaction with the idea 
that an airman at the army staff level had some control over the forces at the 
corps or division level of battle. Their rationale was the need to ensure "unity of 
command," wherein all resources, including aircraft, should be under the control of 
a ground commander. The writers waffled here because they did not really know at 
what level—division, corps, or army— the ground commander would be during 
battle. The compromise doctrine, FM 31-35, offered neither true centralization 
nor unity of command. The air and ground officers who wrote FM 31-35 understood 
that it was theoretically based, that combat experience was needed to validate 
doctrine, and that leaders would interpret it in light of specific campaigns.*^ 

Additional doctrine published before battle verification in North Africa 
reflected the expanding importance and increased responsibilities for the air 
forces. By 1942 there was the greater question of whether any new ideas could be 
instilled in the minds of field commanders in the midst of preparation for combat. 
A good example was FM 100-15, Larger Units, issued 29 June 1942. In this 
document not only was a strategic mission formally established but also a priority 
was set for one aspect of air support aviation that would restrict efforts at close 
air support. The manual stated that in campaigns "the initial objective [of air 
operations] must include the attainment of air superiority." Corps or division 
commanders accepted the idea of air superiority as a high-priority mission for the 
air forces, but they expected aircraft for close air support as well. Members of an 
air support board met in December 1942 to suggest revisions, but the Army Air 
Forces and Army Ground Forces members argued to delay publication of an 
updated air support manual until differing concepts were more fully tested in 
combat.^ 2 


An additional issue was whether doctrine written by the headquarters staff in 
1 942 could be disseminated to the field in time to educate and convince 
regimental, brigade, division, and corps ground commanders, as well as the air 
commanders of the squadrons, groups, and air commands. The record suggests that 
indoctrination in air and ground force doctrine tended to be limited to an officer's 
own arm. Even though it was crucial to close air support operations, neither air 
nor ground officers gained effective knowledge of each other's branch doctrine 
until mid-1943, when training programs became more realistic.*^ 

Aircraft: Enabling the Execution of Close Air Support 

The War Department tackled one other major problem between air and 
ground, choosing and procuring suitable close air support aircraft, in the prewar 
period. Limited funding reduced research and development in the interwar years. 
Then, in 1939, when war preparations opened the purse, the need for operational 
aircraft was too urgent to start the acquisition process at the basic research level. 
Lacking many modern aircraft in 1939, the Air Corps now scurried to procure the 
latest models of all available types. It was forced to rely on the self-initiated 
design of the aircraft manufacturers. Fortunately, the American aviation industry 
had been competitive internationally and had done design work on many up-to-date 
aircraft. The American commercial market and the foreign military market had 
encouraged research for several years prior to 1939. In particular, the American 
industries developed radial engines superior to any of European design, and had 
built superior transport aircraft. In the late thirties, with relatively short 
development time, the industry modified many of its transport aircraft into light 
and medium bombers and offered them to foreign and American military 

Design and development of new bombers was one thing; aviation technology 
was such that engineers could readily produce bigger and taster aircraft. However, 
aircraft for close support, particularly observation and attack types, had 
operational requirements that called for characteristics more difficult to produce 
than size and speed. Aviation engineers in the United States and in foreign 
countries had failed to find the technology to match those characteristics, and all 


observation and attack aircraft between 1939 and 19*3, American and foreign, 
were considered obsolete. For aviation technologists, the air battles of 1939 and 
19*0 in Europe demonstrated that the very latest Air Corps attack and observation 
models were excessively vulnerable to the speed and guns of fighters and to general 
ground fire. German light flak (antiaircraft) guns proved so effective that the 
interwar approach of sneaking into a ground target, flying low and slow between 
ground obstructions, was no longer possible. In short, the prospect seemed dim for 
development of an effective weapons-carrying attack plane or observation model 
for close air support. 

Faced with the five-year timelag between design and construction, Arnold 
was forced to make an important procurement decision in 1939. He started a 
revolution in attack bombardment doctrine in choosing the Douglas A-20, one of 
many new light bomber designs offered by the manufacturers, over the more 
simple, traditional, single engine attack aircraft that could hit small targets 
identified by the ground commanders. His decision demonstrated the growing 
popularity of light bomber procurement by European air forces in the immediate 
months before the invasion of Poland. In doing so, Arnold assumed that the new, 
larger-sized medium bombers, offered by manufacturers without Air Corps request, 
might also prove useful for close air support. He expected that these new twin- 
engined bombers would be fast enough and sufficiently armed to match enemy 
fighters and that the remarkable speed provided by the new powerful engines would 
allow aircraft to slip through antiaircraft defenses. Ground force proponents 
feared that the new bombers were more suited to interdiction bombing and that 
they would not be capable of hitting targets in close proximity to friendly troops. 
Maj. Gen. Innis P. Swift, commander of the 1st Cavalry Division in 19*2, forwarded 
a design proposal that was symbolic of the dream of all ground commanders. The 
proposed aircraft matched all the needs of a weapons-carrying ground support 
aircraft: long loitering capability, armor protection against ground weapons, and 
ability to carry a suitable number of weapons and munitions. General Swift 
understood, however, that success hung on the hope that engineers could develop an 
engine with suitable horsepower. The Army Air Forces engineers put out bids for 
such an aircraft, but a prototype was not found until after the war. 


Procuring aircraft for the observation role was a more difficult problem than 
procuring weapons-carrying aircraft, and resulted in years of wrangling between air 
and ground staff and field proponents. Faced with the problem of the new, fast 
enemy fighters and the requirement to maintain long loitering capabilities, aircraft 
designers had an almost impossible technological task, The airmen rejected many 
designs proposals offered by manufacturers. All proposals compromised speed and 
defenses, even though most models would have provided good observation platforms 
in peacetime. Somewhat selfishly, many ground officers felt that observation 
problems stemmed from the airmen's self-serving concentration on bomber 
development and that aircraft for close air support observation needs had been 

After months of argument over several types of observation aircraft, in 19*1 
the ground force planners demanded that a small, lightweight, off-the-shelf, 
commercial model be procured for battlefield observation duties. The 19* i 
maneuvers had shown the utility of small aircraft to ground commanders. Some 
ground officers maintained that the little "Grasshoppers" would be able to observe 
enemy activities while staying behind friendly lines in their flights. This way they 
would avoid enemy ground fire. Supporters in the ground forces also believed that 
the planes' maneuverability would allow them to dodge fighter pursuit. The airmen 
never fully accepted the light aircraft as a battlefield weapon, but they saw no 
alternative. Some "standard" observation models, such as the 0-*7 and 0-52 
procured for testing between 1939 and 1941, were very fine aircraft in terms of 
providing good loitering time and good observation for the observers. Yet by 19*1 
the airmen had determined that they were too vulnerable, by European battlefield 
standards, both to enemy fighters and ground fire. Instead, the airmen suggested 
that deep penetration reconnaissance could be carried out by specially modified 
fighters or fast bombers, and the small planes would be procured until they could 
find a better close-in observation aircraft. * 6 

Understanding many of the problems associated with acquiring suitable close 
air support aircraft, and usually deferring to the airmen specialists, Marshall in one 
instance interfered with an Army Air Forces decision. In 19*1 he asked the air 
forces to acquire dive bombers similar to those used by the Germans. The Stuka 
dive bombers had terrified enemy ground forces by providing precision 


bombardment of targets close to German troops. Light bombers, using the level- 
bombing attack mode, could not guarantee pinpoint target destruction. The German 
dive bomber success captured everyone's attention, and army commanders wanted 
similar air support. Many argued that this was the only remaining aircraft type 
that gave field commanders hope for effective weapons-carrying close air support 
aircraft.* 7 

Arnold told Marshall that the Air Corps had tested the dive bomber concept 
years earlier, rejecting it as dangerous and potentially ineffective because of 
enemy fighters. He also told Marshall that German dive bombers had been proven 
too vulnerable in battle, in spite of some success against Poland, France, and the 
Soviet Union. The Germans had, in fact, comprehended the weakness of the type 
and did not intend to employ the dive bombers in theaters where their enemy had 
first-line fighters. Nonetheless, probably overly sensitive to the complaints of 
ground forces and wanting to provide a surrogate, Marshall insisted. Arnold 
complied by ordering the acquisition of dive bombers for the air support commands. 
Because the Army Air Forces had neither dive bombers nor any in design, the air 
staff ordered quantities of modified Navy models and had the first production P-51 
fighters modified with dive brakes and wing racks to fill the requirement. 

In 1940 and 1941 the identification of aircraft for close air support tasks held 
the attention of both air and ground leaders. However, by 1942, they knew that the 
performance of thier forces really would be tested in cooperative — joint — 
operations of close air support. Limited time prevented careful study of 
operational problems and weaknesses. A war-experienced Royal Air Force group 
captain visiting the War Department predicted some possible problems with the 
American air support system, especially with planning. He foresaw that Americans 
would have to undertake more intensive planning and develop a permanent staff to 
coordinate all the services and arms cooperating in air support. He suggested that 
planners needed to recognize how quickly air forces were wasted away in battle 
conditions. Maj. Gen. George C. Kenney, commanding the Fourth Air Force in San 
Francisco, in April 1942, also offered some predictive observations. He warned 
that air support would take lots of planes, for observation, attack, and top cover. 
Any stinginess and the system would fail.*8 


Some offices of the War Department made note of Kenney's admonitions, but 
the preparation for an attack against the Nazis in Europe, as well as other theater 
activities, engrossed much of the staff effort and consumed the attention of field 
commanders desperately preparing their minimally trained troops for overseas 
passage. By late 1942 the War Department had assigned the expanding air forces 
many functions. Close air support of ground forces was but one troublesome aspect 
of air power. Still, the ground leaders saw a great need for aircraft in the battle 
against Axis powers, and they got assurance from the War Department that they 
would have the air support commands dedicated to support the ground battle. They 
also won the promise of potential support from fighter and bomber commands. War 
Department leaders generally agreed on doctrine for joint arms warfare, written in 
light of European war experiences, although there were questions about command 
of forces at lower levels and about the indoctrination of field commanders. Arnold 
admitted freely that the air forces were only partially trained. He foresaw 
problems with close air support, as well as other facets of military activity, in 
forthcoming operations in North Africa.^ 


Several twin-engined tactical bombers, modified from commerical transport aircraft, were offered by 
the alert aircraft industry in the late thirties. Portrayed are Douglas B-18s (fop), shown here flying in 
formation over California, and a Martin A-22 (fioffom) on the ramp. 

A more conventional attack aircraft, the Northrop A-1 7. last of the prewar single-engine attack airplanes, 
was a successful flyer and was much faster than its predecessors. A-1 7s were procured in great 
quantity between 1936 and 1941 , but after the United States became involved in the war, it was clear 
to all that this aircraft would be inadequate in speed, range, and bomb-carrying capability. 

The Army Air Forces acquired two medium bombers beginning in 1941, the North American B-25 
"Mitchell" (fop) and the Martin B-26 "Maurader" (ooffom), with the expectation of providing the ground 
forces additional close air support as well as interdiction and strike missions. 

The Air Corps bought dozens of different observation-type aircraft in the late thirties. Some were 
modified from pursuit or attack aircraft types. Several, like this Douglas 0-43, were good observation 
platforms, but the increasingly fast fighter aircraft beginning to fly in foreign air forces suggested that 
conventional observation aircraft would be extremely vulnerable. 

Then in the late thirties the Air Corps sought a more powerful, faster, all-metal monoplane type for 
observation tasks. The North American 0-47 {top) and Curtiss 0-52 (bottom) were excellent flyers. 
The 0-47 had an observation bay below the wing; the 0-52 used a high-wing configuration to allow 
the flight crew an unobstructed view below. 

The most popular observation aircraft of the war were the light "Grasshoppers," like this Taylorcraft 
0-57- With only a 65-horsepower engine and simple construction, they were inexpensive and easy to 
operate and maintain, but they could only operate behind friendly lines or when the skies were clear of 
enemy fighters. 

In addition, the Air Corps procured a number of light aircraft, basically modified from commercial sports 
planes, to give the ground forces close air support service once air superiority had been gained. Some 
of the models were highly maneuverable and performed well at slow speeds. The Stinson 0-49 {top) 
was a successful model used throughout the war. The Ryan 0-51 [bottom) had high-lift wings that 
permitted operations in and out of small fields. 

To complement the light observation aircraft, airmen turned to modified fighters for the needed 
observation over enemy lines. Once the lessons of battle came in, they also modified these planes 
with bomb racks and operated them in close air support missions. Portrayed are two of the fighter 
aircraft types of World War II that were modified into fighter-bombers, the Lockheed P-38 "Lightning" 
(fop| and the Bell P-39 "Airacobra" (ijorfom). 

Before 1 940 the Air Corps had many varieties of cargo transports to serve its own operational flying 
squadrons. The famous Curtiss C-46 "Commando" (top) and the Douglas C-47 "Gooney Bird" 
(bottom) were acquired in large numbers to meet the expanding requirements of all services. In close 
air support tasks these aircraft provided the ground forces with both cargo and personnel airborne 

Endnotes— Chapter I 

1. Thomas H, Greer, The Development of Air Doctrine in the Army Air 
Army, 1917-19*1 , USAF Historical Studies no. 89 (Maxwell Air Force Base; 
USAF Historical Division, Research Studies Institute, Air University, 1955), 
pp. *0-*l. 

2. Oral Interv no. 729, Gen Earle E. Partridge, April 197*, pp. 60-68 and 221-27 
(Partridge claimed that there was a balanced curriculum at the Air Corps 
Tactical School and that the air forces were organized for cooperation with 
the Army ground forces), USAF Historical Research Center (USAFHRC) Oral 
History Collection, Maxwell Air Force Base (MAFB); Maj Gen Orvil A. 
Anderson, "Development of US Strategic Air Doctrine, ETO WW II" (Speech 
delivered at Air War College, September 20, 1951), USAFHRC Microfilm 
Collection, 239.71651-9, MAFB. 

3. Greer, Air Doctrine , pp. **-106. See also Oral Intervs no. 729, Partridge, 
April 197*, and no. 898, Maj Gen Orvil A. Anderson, October 1959, USAFHRC 
Oral History Collection, MAFB; R. Earl McClendon, The Question of 
Autonomy for the U.S. Air Army, 1907-19*5 (Maxwell Air Force Base: 
Documentary Research Division, Air University, 195*), pp. 151-52; John F. 
Shiner, Foulois and the U.S. Army Air Corps, 1931-1935 (Washington, D.C.: 
Office of Air Force History, 1983), pp. * 3-255. 

*. McClendon, Question of Autonomy , pp. 151-52. 

5. Robert Frank Futrell, Ideas, Concepts, Doctrine: A History of Basic Thinking 
in the United States Air Force (Maxwell Air Force Base; Air University, 
197*), pp. *0-*l. 

6. War Department Training Regulation **0-15, Air Corps, Employment of the 
Air Forces of the Army, 15 Oct 35. 

7. Ibid. 

8. Greer, Air Doctrine , pp. 76-83 and 87-88. See also William A. Jacobs, 
"Tactical Air Doctrine and AAF Close Air Support in the European Theater, 
I94*-19*5," Aerospace Historian , March 1980, pp. 35-*9. 

9. Mark Skinner Watson, Chief of Staff: Prewar Plans and Preparations . United 
States Army in World War II (Washington, D.C.: Historical Division, U.S. 
Army, 1950), pp. 132-*6. 

10. Wesley Frank Craven and James Lea Cate, eds., The Army Air Forces in 
World War II , 7 vols. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 19*8-58), vol. 1, 
Plans and Early Operations, January 1939 to August 19*2 (19*8), p. 10*; 
Futrell, Ideas , p. *9; H. H. Arnold, Global Mission (New York: Harper, 19*9), 
pp. 177-80. 


11. Craven and Gate, Plans and Early Operations , 1:10*; Arnold, Global Mission, 
pp. 177-80; Maj Gen L. S. Kuter, "Organization of Top Echelons in World War 
II" (Lecture delivered at War College, February 2S, 19<f9), pp. 2-6 (hereafter 
cited as Kuter Lecture), USAFHRC Microfilm Collection, MAFB. 

12. Arnold, Global Mission , p. 180. 

13. Watson, Chief of Staff , pp. 77, 152-55, 162-78, Dewitt S. Copp, A Few Great 
Captains (Garden City, N.J.: Doubleday, 1980), pp. *28 and *3*-37; George 
Catlett Marshall, The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, ed, Larry I. Bland 
(Baltimore: John Hopkins Press, 1981—), vol. 1, The Soldierly Spirit, 
December 188Q-3une 1939 (1981), pp. 611, 617, 618, 620-2*; Forrest C. 
Pogue, George C. Marshall (New York: Viking, 1963-87), vol. 2, Ordeal and 
Hope, 1939-19*2 (1965), pp. *8-50 and 82-85; Harold B. Hinton, Air Victory: 
The Men and Machines , (New York: Harper, 19*8), p. 87; Arnold, Global 
Mission , p. 179; Memo, Gen Malin Craig, CofS, WD, to Asst CofS, G-2, WD, 
17 Mar 39, file OCS 1*100-21, RG 165, National Archives and Records 
Administration (NARA); Memo, Craig to Asst CofS, G-2, WD, 2* May 38, file 
OCS 1*110-23, RG 165, NARA; Kuter Lecture, pp. 2-6. 

1*. Ltr, Maj Gen H. H. Arnold, Chief, Air Corps, to Karl H. Von Weigand, Foreign 
Service Editor, International New Service, 6 Mar 39, file 381, CDF 1939- 
19*2, RG 18, NARA; Arnold, Global Mission , pp. 179-83; Futrell, Ideas , pp. 
*S-*9; Marshall, Papers of George Catlett Marshall , 1:631-35; Copp, A Few 
Great Captains , pp. **8-*9; Watson, Chief of Staff , pp. 280-86. 

15. Quoted words from Air Corps Field Manual 1-5, Employment of Aviation of 
15 Apr *0. See also Greer, Air Doctrine , pp. 112-15; Futrell, Ideas , p. 51. 

16. Air Corps Field Manual 1-5, Employment of Aviation of the Army, 15 Apr *0. 

17. Ibid. 

18. Kent Roberts Greenfield, Robert R. Palmer, and Bell I. Wiley, The 
Organization of Ground Combat Troops , United States Army in World War 11 
(Washington, D.C.: Historical Division, U.S. Army, 19*7), pp. 99-107, 115-18, 
13*- 39. 

19. Watson, Chief of Staff , p. 29*. 

20. Arnold, Global Mission , pp. 181-99; See Air Support Directorate, 
HQAAF/AFRAS documents in files 373.21, AAF, CDF 19*2-19** and 321.9, 
CDF 1939-19*2, RG 18, NARA. See also records in USAFHRC Microfilm 
Collection, 1*3.0*-*, MAFB; Memo, Maj Gen George H. Brett, Chief, Air 
Corps, to Asst CofS, WPD, WD, 5 Jun *1, sub: Air Force Requirements, files 
*52.1, "F" Airplanes Reports, Entry 293, Series II, CDF 1939-19*2, RG 18, 
NARA; Greenfield et al., Organization of Ground Combat Troops , pp. 99-101; 
Watson, Chief of Staff , pp. 28*-95; Pogue, Ordeal and Hope , 2: 83-86. 


21. Frank Robert Futrell, Command of Observation Aviation; A Study in Control 
of Tactical Airpower , USAF Historical Study no. 24 (Maxwell Air Force Base: 
USAF Historical Division, 1956), p. 12. 

22. Ibid., pp. 1-21; Greenfield et al., Organization of Ground Combat Troops , p. 
108; Memo, Lt Gen Detos C. Emmons, Cdr, HQ, Air Force Combat Command 
(AFCC), to Chief, Army Air Forces (AAF), 3 Jul «, USAFHRC Microfilm 
Collection, 322.082, MAFB; Craven and Cate, Plans and Early Operations , 1: 
144 and 158-59; Wesley Frank Craven and James Lea Cate, eds., The Army 
Air Forces in World War II , 7 vols. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 
1948-58), vol. 6, Men and Planes (1955), pp. 52-55; "Cooperative Aviation: 
Five Support Commands," The Air Corps News Letter , August 1941, pp. 1, 4, 
30; Memo, George C. Marshall, CofS, WD, to Chief, Air Corps, 22 Jul 41, 
USAFHRC Microfilm Collection, 145.96-63, MAFB; Ltr, Adjutant General, 
WD, to Chief, AAF, 25 Jul 42, sub: Air Support Aviation, file 381, CDF 1939- 
1942, RG 18, NARA; Minutes of Initial Meeting of Air Council, 2 Jul 41, War 
Department, file 334.8, CDF 1939-1942, RG 18, NARA. 

23. Kent Roberts Greenfield, Army Ground Forces and the Air-Ground Battle 
Team, Including Organic Light Aviation , U.S. Army Study no. 35 (Washington, 
D.C.: Historical Section, Army Ground Forces, 1948), p. 7. 

24. Futrell, Command of Observation Aviation , p. 12. 

25. Ibid. 

26. Directive, Adjutant General, WD, to Chief, AAF, 25 Jul 41. sub: Air Support 
Aviation, file 381, CDF 1939-1942, RG 18, NARA; Herman S. Wolk, Planning 
and Organizing the Postwar Air Force, 1943-1947 (Washington, D.C.: Office 
of Air Force History, 1984), pp. 21-22. 

27. Memo for Chief of AAF (probably sent by Maj Gen Carl Spaatz, Asst CofS, 
AAF), 22 Jul 41, USAFHRC Microfilm Collection, 145.96-63, MAFB. 

28. Craven and Cate, Plans and Early Operations , 1:586-88; Memo, Col H. L. 
George, Asst Air Chief of Staff, A-WPD, WD, to CofS, WD, 18 Feb 42, sub: 
Readjustment of Air Support Organizations, USAFHRC Microfilm Collection, 
145.96-63, MAFB; Memo, Col William E. Lynd, Director, Air Support, AFCC, 
to CofS, AAF, 3 Feb 42, sub: Organization of Air Support, file 321.9, CDF 
1939-1942, NARA; Memo, Col John Y. York, Jr., to Asst CofS, A-3, WD, 31 
Mar 42, sub: Status of 5th Ground Support Command, file 321.9, CDF 1939- 
1942, RG 18 NARA; 1st End, CG, Air Force Technical Training Command, 
Knollwood Field, N.C., 4 Jul 42, sub: Ground-Air Support Command, to 
Memo, Col D. M. Schlatter, Director, Ground-Air Support, WD, 4 July 42, 
same sub, file 321.9, CDF 1939-1942, RG 18, NARA; Memo, Col B. E. Gates, 
Director, Management Control, WD, to Director, Military Requirements, WD, 
14 Jul 42, sub: Transfer of Functional Responsibility for Light and Dive 
Bombardment . . . , file 452.1, CDF 1939-1942, RG 18, NARA; Memo (for 


oral presentation), Brig Gen T. J. Hanley, Jr., to Arnold, 5 Nov 42, sub: Air 
Support for Ground Forces, file 373.21, AAF CDF, Oct 1942 to May 1944, RG 
18, NARA; Ltr (and attachments), Maj Gen George C. Kenney, Cdr, Fourth 
Air Force, to Lt Gen H. H. Arnold, Cdr, AAF, 25 Apr 42, file 385C, CDF 
1939-1942, RG 18, NARA. 

29. Greenfield, Army Ground Forces and the Air- Ground Battle Team , p. 7. 

30. Futrell, Ideas , pp. 77-78. 

31. Memo, Emmons, Cdr, HQ, AFCC, to Chief, AAF, 8 Oct 41, file Chief of 
AAF, Entry 241a, RG 18, NARA; Memo (and attached staff sheet), Arnold to 
Asst SecWar John 3. McCloy, 15 Mar 42, H. H. Arnold Manuscript Collection, 
box 44, Library of Congress (LOC); Greenfield et al., Organization of Ground 
Troops , pp. 104-08. 

32. Greenfield, Army Ground Forces and the Air-Ground Battle Team , pp. 7-9 
and 29-44; Memo, Lynd, Director, Air Support, AFCC, to CofS, WD and AAF, 
3 Feb 42, sub: Organization of Air Support, file 321.9, CDF 1939-1942, RG 
18, NARA. 

33. Memo, Schlatter, Office of Director of Ground-Air Support, WD, to Director, 
Military Requirements, WD, 20 Apr 42, sub: Comments of General Brereton's 
Cablegram; Memo, Arnold to Schlatter, 14 Mar 42, sub: Needs and 
Requirements of Our Observation Squadrons and Support Units. Both in H. H. 
Arnold Manuscript Collection, box 44, LOC. 

34. Ltr, Maj Gen Jacob L. Devers, Cdr, HQ, Armored Forces, Fort Knox, Ky. t to 
Arnold, 5 Sep 42, H. H. Arnold Manuscript Collection, box 44, LOC. 

35. Ibid.; Memo, Spaatz, Cdr, HQ, AFCC, to Chief, AAF, 2 Mar 42, sub: 
Organization of Air Support, file 321.9, CDF 1939-1942, RG 18, NARA; 
Directive, P. M. Whitney, Asst Adjutant General, WD, to CG, HQ, AFCC, 21 
Feb 42, sub: Organization of Air Support, file 321.9, CDF 1939-1942, RG 18, 
NARA; Routing and Record Sheet, HQ, AAF, AFROM to AFACT, 4 Mar 42, 
sub: Status of 5th Ground Support Command, file 321.9, CDF 1939-1942, RG 
18, NARA; Routing and Record Sheet, HQ, AAF, AFDAS to AFRGS, Kuter 
to Schlatter, 1 May 42, USAFHRC Microfilm Collection, 145.96-54, MAFB; 
Ltr, Brig Gen John B. Brooks, Cdr, HQ, II Air Support Command, to Arnold 
and Schlatter via Second Air Force, 20 Nov 42, file 373.21, CDF Oct 1942 to 
May 1944, RG 18, NARA; Routing and Records Sheet, HQ, AAF, 11 Apr 42, 
sub: Air-Ground Cooperative Training, with attached AFRGS (AAF Ground 
Support Directorate) Rpt, 14 Apr 42, file 353 F, CDF 1939-1942, RG 18, 
NARA; Memo, Gates, Director, Management Control, WD, to Director, 
Military Requirements, WD, 14 Jul 42, sub: Transfer of Functional 
Responsibility for Light and Dive Bombardment Aviation . . . , 14 Jul 42, file 
452.1, CDF 1939-1942, RG 18, NARA. 

36. Memo, Arnold to CofS, WD, 20 Jul 42, sub: Ground-Air Support of Armored 
Forces, H. H. Arnold Manuscript Collection, box 42, LOC. 


37. Memo, Arnold to SecWar, 23 Oct 42, sub: Aviation in Support of the Army 
Ground Forces, H. H. Arnold Manuscript Collection, box 42, LOC. 

38. Quoted words from War Department Basic Field Manual 31-35, Aviation in 
Support of Ground Forces, 9 Apr 42. See also Greenfield et al., Organization 
of Ground Troops , pp. 110-14. 

39. Quoted words from War Department Basic Field Manual 31-35, Aviation in 
Support of Ground Forces, 9 Apr 42. See also Schlatter to CGs, Second and 
Third Air Forces, 3 Jun 42, sub: Reorganization of Observation Aviation, file 
321.9, CDF 1939-1942, RG 18, NARA. 

40. Greenfield et al., Organization of Ground Troops , p. 112. 

41. War Department Field Manual 31-35, Aviation in Support of Ground Forces, 9 
Apr 42; Greenfield et al., Organization of Ground Troops , pp. 110-14. 

42. Quoted words from War Department Field Service Regulation, FM 100-15, 
Larger Units, 29 Jun 42. See also Futrell, Ideas , p. 66. 

43. Memo, Arnold to CofS, WD, 20 Jul 42, sub: Ground-Air Support of Armored 
Forces; Memo, Arnold to SecWar, 23 Oct 42, sub: Aviation in Support of the 
Army Ground Forces. Both in H. H. Arnold Manuscript Collection, box 42, 


44. Futrell, Ideas , pp. 49-51; Stetson Conn and Byron Fairchild, The Framework 
of Hemisphere Defense , United States Army in World War II (Washington, 
D.C., Office of Chief of Military History, U.S. Army, 1960), pp 16-19; Final 
Report of the Air Corps Board on Revision to the 5-year Experimental 
Program , 23 Jun 39, in Lyons Records (large indexed microfilm collection), 
Historians Office, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB); Ltr, Adjutant 
General, WD, to Chief, Air Corps, 30 Oct 39, sub: Airplane Replacement and 
Research and Development Programs, Lyons Records, WPAFB. 

45. J. V. Mizrahi, Air Corps (Northridge, Calif.: Sentry Books, 1970), pp. 99-103; 
Memo, Sherman Miles, Acting Asst CofS, G-2, WD, to Asst CofS, WPD, WD, 6 
Jul 40, sub: Foreign Air Doctrine, Lyons Records, WPAFB; Memo, Brig Gen 
George H. Brett, Chief, Material Division, WD, to Chief, Air Corps, 31 May 
39, Lyons Records, WPAFB; Rpt, 10 May 39, sub: Board of Officers 
Convened To Appraise Attack Bomber Designs . . . , file 452.1 "A" Attack 
Bombers, Classified CDF 1939-1942, Entry 293, RG 18, NARA; Ltr, Arnold 
to President, Air Corps Board, MAFB, 18 Aug 37, USAFHRC Microfilm 
Collection, 145.93-117, MAFB; Ltr, Arnold to Asst SecWar, 10 Jan 39, sub: 
Prototype Attack Bomber Airplane, Lyons Records, WPAFB; News Bulletin, 
Leonard H. Engel, "Army To Select Prototype For New Class Of Plane in 
Wright Field Competition; Attack Bomber Will Replace Attack Plane If 
Successful," 24 Jan 39, file 452.1, CDF 1939-1942, RG 18, NARA; Memo to 
Air Corps Board, sub: Study no. 35, USAFHRC Microfilm Collection, 248-22- 
25, MAFB; Rpt, 3 Jul 42, sub: Use of Aircraft for Anti-tank Defense, file 381 
B, CDF 1939-1942, RG 18, NARA. 


46. Robert J. Waag, "Spy in the Sky," Air Power , January 1975, pp. 30-43; 
Futrell, Command of Observation Aviation , pp. 1-11; Rick Giasebrook, 
"Flying the North American 0-47 and the Curtiss-Wright 0-52," Aerospace 
Historian , March 197S, pp. 5-11; Craven and Cate, Plans and Early 
Operations , 1:618-21; Ltr, Arnold to Adjutant General, WD, 9 May 39, sub: 
Military Characteristics of Aircraft, file 452.1 "A," Entry 293, Series II, 
Classified CDF 1939-1942, RG 18, NARA; Proceedings of a Board of Officers 
Appointed by the Following Orders, 16 May 39, approved by Arnold, headed 
by Col Clarence L. Tinker, file 452.1 "B," Entry 293, Series II, Classified CDF 
1939-1942, RG 18, NARA; Memo, Arnold to Tinker, 10 May 39 (Arnold 
started the search for a slow speed liaison plane early in 1939), file 452. 1-H 
Observation Planes, CDF 1939-1942, RG 18, NARA; Mai Holcomb, "Send 
Grasshoppers!: How the U.S. Army Air Corps Procured a Fleet of 
Liaison/Observation Aircraft Almost Overnight, in Spite of Itself," Wings , 
February 1983, pp. 40-49; Irving B. Holley, Jr., Evolution of the Liaison-type 
Airplane, 1917-1944 (Washington, D.C.: AAF Historical Office, 1946). 

47. Memo, Robert A. Lovett, Asst SecWar for Air, to Chief, AAF, 14 Aug 41, sub: 
Procurement Service Quantity of Light Commercial Type Airplanes; Ltr, Lt 
Gen 3. L. DeWitt, Cdr, Fourth Army, to Marshall, 5 Aug 41; Rpt, Col Robert 
E. M. Goolrick, Cdr, Air Corps Troops, IX Army Corps, to CG, IX Army 
Corps, Fort Lewis, Wash., 17 Mar 41, sub: Observation With the Corps. All in 
USAFHRC Microfilm Collection, 248.2208B, MAFB. 

48. Waag, "Spy in the Sky," pp. 30-43; Futrell, Command of Observation Aviation , 
pp. 1-11; Giasebrook, "Flying the North American 0-47 and the Curtiss- 
Wright 0-52," pp. 5-11; Ltr, Arnold to Adjutant General, WD, 9 May 39, sub: 
Military Characteristics of Aircraft, file 452.1 "A," Entry 293, Series II, 
Classified CDF 1939-1942, RG 18, NARA; Proceedings of a Board of Officers 
Appointed by the Following Orders, 16 May 39, approved by Arnold, headed 
by Col Clarence L. Tinker, file 452.1 "B," Entry 293, Series II, Classified 
CDF 1939-1942, RG 18, NARA; Memo, Arnold to Tinker, 10 May 39, file 
452. i-H Observation Planes, CDF 1939-1942, RG 18, NARA; Holcomb, "Send 
Grasshoppers!," pp. 40-49; Holley, Evolution of the Liaison-type Airplane, 
1917-1944 ; Ltr, Kenney to Arnold, 25 Apr 42, and attached report, "Air 
Support of Task Force Offensive Operations," file 385C, CDF 1939-1942, RG 
18, NARA; Memo, Lynd, Air Support Section, AFCC, to CG, AFCC, 3 Feb 42, 
sub: Summary of Items Discussed at Informal Conference, Group Captain 
Willet, RAF . . . , file 385C, CDF 1939-1942, RG 18, NARA.. 

49. Memo, Arnold to Schlatter, 23 Dec 42, sub: Teamwork Between Air and 
Ground Units, H. H. Arnold Manuscript Collection, box 42, LOC. 



North African Close Air Support Operations 

World War II Operations and North Africa 

Intelligence sources did not anticipate the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor 
that brought the United States into war. Despite the buildup of forces and planning 
for potential war during 1939 and 1940, the War Department was not as prepared as 
it wanted to be. Still, the military flung what it had into battle with the Japanese 
and began a buildup of forces in Europe and other parts of the world. Marshall 
recognized that it would require months before a ground force could be raised big 
enough for an invasion of the Continent. The British believed it would take years. 
Army Air Forces leaders promised that their forces could start an offensive against 
the Germans earlier than the ground forces, but it meant a slowdown in 
development of air support forces. With presidential approval, in early 19*2, the 
Eighth Air Force started preparations for a bombing campaign against Germany. 

Then in mid-1942, pressured by the Russians and British to start a serious 
land offensive, Roosevelt insisted that the military follow the British suggestion 
and initiate a ground and air campaign in North Africa before the end of the year. 
Field General Erwin Rommel's June offensive had created a crisis for the British in 
the desert west of Cairo. In response, the Americans lined up some air units, 
initiating the process with a detachment of B-2*s under Col. Harry A. Halverson. 
By the fall of 19*2 the United States had sent a sizable American contingent of 
aircraft to the British Western Desert Air Force, including some assigned to close 
air support roles ( Map 1 ). By November American forces had formed into the Ninth 
Air Force, commanded by Maj. Gen. L. H. Brereton. 

American aviators gained experience with the unique British air-ground 
cooperation system for the first time. The combined forces of General Sir Bernard 
L. Montgomery's Eighth Army and the air units of Air Vice Marshal Sir Arthur 
Coningham's Western Desert Air Force shared a great victory between August and 
October 19*2 in the desert west of Cairo. Montgomery and Coningham mutually 
decided that ground and aviation command components functioned best as equal 
partners at the army level. Air and ground field staffs also had the same 
headquarters and living quarters. It was a true joint command, as neither 


MAP 1 

Montgomery nor Coningham demanded final authority. It helped that the 
techniques involved in joint command were amenable to offensive, as opposed to 
defensive, operations. Success in pushing Rommel to the west helped make the 
adventure a positive one in the minds of many observers and participants. By 
August Brereton had grasped the significance of Coningham's employment of air 
support fighters and bombers. He reported to Arnold on the importance of the 
command arrangement in the Western Desert, and how the cooperation came from 
a natural sympathy and understanding between air and ground commander,' 

At the same time, as staff and forces were gathering in England for 
Operation TORCH, Allied strategists were contending with multiplying demands 
for resources from other theaters. Increasing requirements for worldwide 
operations reduced air resources for close air support. The fight against Rommel 
to clear the Mediterranean received special attention, if not a higher priority than 
TORCH, in the late summer of 19^2. The desire to relieve pressure against the 
Soviet Union grew in importance as the victorious German summer campaign 
brought the Axis into the Caucasus and closer to the Middle East. The Allies 
juggled resources to expand the commitment to the Middle East. Thus, large 
quantities of fighters and light and medium bombers, used in close support work, 
were diverted from TORCH to the Western Desert, the Middle East, and Russia. In 
one case, General Dwight David Eisenhower, supreme commander of TORCH, 
interceded to prevent the 33d Fighter Group from being sent to the Western 
Desert. ^ 

On 2 October President Roosevelt directed Secretary of War Henry L. 
Stimson to increase the flow of aircraft to Russia. Marshall was concerned, and 
after conferences with Arnold and presidential adviser Harry Hopkins, he went 
directly to the president. He told Roosevelt that the only way to increase the 
monthly lend-lease airplane schedule to the Soviet Union would be "a reduction of 
planes urgently needed for our units in combat theaters, or to curtail seriously the 
plans for TORCH. Roosevelt wanted TORCH to be a success, but he kept pressure 
on Marshall to support all theaters. For example, on 2* October Roosevelt 
ordered his military chiefs to make sure the South Pacific as well as North Africa 
operations were supported with "munitions and planes and crews. . . ." In order "to 
take advantage of our success, "he judged, "we must have adequate air support in 


both places. . . ." In England, planning for the invasion of North Africa, Eisenhower 
wanted as much air power as possible. He was not entirely clear about the 
published doctrine on close air support, and he was uncertain about understanding 
among his lieutenants. He would give close air support special attention. After all 
this was the first major land campaign for the United States, and the eyes of the 
Americans and Allies were looking for results. 3 

Planning Close Air Support for North Africa 

In October 19f2, just weeks before the landing in North Africa, Eisenhower's 
Allied Force Headquarters (AFHQ) planners issued an operations memorandum on 
the subject of close air support. In this directive, "Combat Aviation in Direct 
Support* of Ground Units," the planners attempted to clarify command and control 
authority and to prescribe methods of coordinating the air units in direct support of 
ground forces. They noted that American and British doctrine agreed, pointing out 
that the basic American FM 31-35 matched British Army Training Instruction No. 
6 and that the communications systems of the American and the British— air 
support control centers and liaison parties for lower-echelon units—were quite 
similar. Eisenhower's planners paid particular attention to the sensitive problem of 
response time, suggesting that most lost time was caused by the ground 
commanders who could not make up their minds. They recommended that 
identified targets should be forwarded ahead of time to the command center so 
that missions could be organized. When this was not possible, they would allow "a 
suitable portion of supporting combat aviation ... be maintained on 'alert' status, 
either 'ground' or 'air.'" Their directive did not define a "suitable portion" of 
aircraft for alert status. Airmen seemed unaware of the potential for abuse of 
limited air resources. In any regard, the wishes of the ground commander 
dominated this portion of the directive.'* 

Allied planners now placed much responsibility for the air-ground system on 
the ground commander: "Effective air support of ground troops is dependent on a 
proper estimate of the situation by the supported commander." But they still 

* Direct air support was the British term for close air support. Its use here 
illustrates the British influence on Allied thought processes and publications. 


waffled on the level of command authority over air support. Although all air 
forces would "operate under the command of the Commander-in-Chief, Allied 
Forces," the Allied commander could allot forces to a task force commander. The 
task force commander would normally retain control, but he could also "designate 
part of his combat aviation to assist directly a specified unit of the Task Force." 
A clear potential existed for air support units being controlled by brigade or 
division commanders as well as corps or army commanders. The remarkable aspect 
of this Allied directive was that it ran against the trend of equality between air 
and ground forces being established by a successful Allied force operating in the 
Western Desert. 5 

The planners also included in their memorandum some long-running concerns 
of airmen: "As a general rule, only those targets which cannot be reached quickly 
and effectively by artillery should be assigned to combat aviation." Command was 
generally centralized, either under the commander-in-chief, Allied Forces, or 
under a task force commander. Probable targets would be discovered and reported 
by observation aircraft that, lacking radios, would report on their return to base. 
Most air support operations would then be planned ahead of time and often by the 
highest command authority rather than the battalion, regiment, or division in the 
field. The final line of the directive, before Brig. Gen. Walter Bedell Smith's 
signature block, warned about the vulnerability and scarcity of air forces: 
"Available direct support aviation must neither be dispersed nor frittered away on 
unimportant targets. The mass of such support should be reserved for 
concentration and overwhelming attack upon important objectives." 6 

Because most of the force for TORCH would be American, it was appropriate 
that British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Roosevelt picked Eisenhower for 
the post of commander-in-chief, directing a small AFHQ staff. Eisenhower's task 
force was organized largely by national components. The desired integration of 
this force had to be carried out by Eisenhower's personal effort rather than through 
a combined organization. Ground forces were originally organized into American 
and British task forces, supported by the Allied Naval Expeditionary Force and the 
American Twelfth Air Force and British Eastern Air Command. 7 

To gather enough resources for the Twelfth Air Force, Arnold stripped the 
England-based Eighth Air Force of fighter, light bomber, and even some heavy 
bomber squadrons. These and additional units fresh from training in the United 


States, and with most personnel only partially trained, were formed into three 
functional Twelfth Air Force components: XII Bomber Command, XII Fighter 
Command, and XII Air Support Command. On 23 October Maj. Gen. James H. 
Doolittle, just back from the raid on Japan, assumed command of these units as 
chief of the new Twelfth Air Force and as chief airman on Eisenhower's staff. & 

While all three components of the Twelfth Air Force would support 
Eisenhower's theater mission, the XII Air Support Command had a first priority to 
support the Fifth Army. It would provide close air support functions of close-in 
bombing and strafing of enemy ground forces, air defense against enemy aircraft, 
and observation. It would also undertake missions not connected to the immediate 
needs of the ground forces, such as attacking enemy air facilities, long-range 
reconnaissance, and bombing and strafing deep in the enemy rear. Eisenhower 
agreed that the Twelfth Air Force should employ "both tactical and strategic 
elements" in common with the British air forces practices. By "strategic elements" 
he meant bombing units that could destroy distant military targets, such as air 
bases, shipping, ports, and communications centers.* The XII Fighter and XII 
Bomber Commands, indeed all Allied air resources, would be available to support 
TORCH ground forces as determined by the commander-in-chief, Eisenhower 
came to his command with a long-time interest in aviation support for the ground 
forces. While he wanted support for the ground forces, he also supported the 
strategic bombing campaign, directed by Maj. Gen. Carl Spaatz in England, because 
it would soften up Germany and thus facilitate success in future battles. Given his 
responsibilities for theater and large strategic concerns, Eisenhower was inclined 
to see the unity-of-command concept from the theater point of view. Consistent 
with Army doctrine, the theater commander controlled all resources. In turn, 
Eisenhower had a tendency to think of aviation, if not close air support 
specifically, in terms of theater rather than of army, corps, or division interests. 
He was more inclined, therefore, to allow the Army Air Forces to centralize air 
resources and have command at a higher level.^ 

Anticipating the needs of future war, Arnold and other staff airmen in 
Washington had developed similar concepts for command on a modern battlefield. 

*Today "strategic elements" would be regarded as deep battlefield interdiction. 


They had accepted the necessity for command decisions being made at a theater or 
task force level of command, but they gave this unity-of-command concept another 
twist when talking about joint air-ground operations. Arnold advocated the 
"principle of command," where the air commander would have "direct command of 
the tactical operations" of the air forces in air operations. During July 19^2 he 
articulated the concept of "direct command" in a memo to Maj. Gen. Thomas T. 
Handy, the assistant chief of staff for operations. Arnold argued that the air 
commander was the specialist and that he should have control over his particular 
operations. He cited Maj. Gen. M. F. Harmon: "The Air Force Commanders are 
especially trained to appreciate the peculiar powers and limitations of the Air 
Arm, and are therefore particularly suited to exercise tactical command in order 
to realize the maximum performance of the units involved." It is not clear how 
much of Arnold's concept meshed with the idea of a task force concept of 
Eisenhower, but Eisenhower came to accept great independence among his 
commanders. He saw his air, ground, and naval chiefs having a dual role. First, 
everyone worked with Eisenhower's staff in the development of plans; then each 
became the responsible commander for executing his part of the whole 
operation. 10 

As the vagaries of war would have it, the Combined Chiefs of Staff did not 
establish a clear directive for Eisenhower until the last few weeks before the 
invasion was to take place. Eisenhower would make a three-pronged invasion of 
North Africa. That meant the American ground forces and supporting air forces 
would have to be split into three elements: one for an invasion at Oran, Algeria; 
another to land in French Morocco; and another, a combined British-American 
force under British Lt. Gen. K. A. N. Anderson, to invade at Algiers (Map 2 ). The 
role of the air forces in support of the ground forces was confused when the 
functional organization of an air force (into bombardment, fighter, and air support 
commands) was altered, with the air commands split up in their assignment to 
different ground invasion commands. Time was incredibly brief for gathering 
sufficient air support forces and for organizing them in an effective manner. 

TORCH planners gave the task force commanders clear operational control 
of their supporting air resources. Maj. Gen. George S. Patton, Jr., sailing directly 
from the United States, would command the Western Task Force landing in French 


Landing site 

300 MILES 


MAP 2 

Morocco. His command included Brig. Gen. John K. Cannon's XII Air Support 
Command, which also had been recently formed in the United States. Maj. Gen. 
Lloyd Fredendall would command the Central Task Force landing in Oran. He 
controlled portions of the XII Fighter and XII Bomber Commands led by Col. 
Lauds Norstad, Doolittle's operations officer. The multiple air services for ground 
support, as exemplified in an air support command, were missing in the latter case, 
an indication of indifference or fuzzy thinking about the kind of aircraft to be used 
in close air support work in North Africa. 11 

Even with the last-minute changes, TORCH planners insisted on following the 
dictates of British-United States air doctrine. For example, after the Oran and 
Casablanca ground forces won their battles and reconsolidated into the Fifth Army, 
the XII Air Support Command would continue to provide the single point of air 
support service. In addition, the bomber and fighter commands would be on call for 
close air support and other ground tasks; but, when not on alert, they would turn to 
the "normal" (planned interdiction) Air Force objectives. In a report to Patton, 
Doolittle agreed that ground warfare was the main focus of the theater operations. 
He also wanted it clarified that first priority went to air superiority and that 
supporting ground action came second. 12 

As envisioned by Eisenhower's planners, the Twelfth Air Force would provide 
communications equipment and personnel necessary to the command and control* 
of air units. Twelfth Air Force air support parties attached to infantry divisions 
and armored columns would relay air support requests to an air support control 
center, set up next to the task force command post. After the task force 
commander approved requests for air support from the subordinate units, they 
would be transmitted to the Twelfth Air Force. Air Force expertise would play its 
part at the Twelfth Air Force or the XII Air Support Command. The XII Air 
Support Command would then allocate missions to the appropriate subordinate 
fighter, bomber, or observation unit. 13 

The one British and two American forces were both casually and awkwardly 

*Neither "command and control" nor "C 2 " were terms commonly employed in 
World War II. Terms like "communications" or "air support control" would be the 
most comparable terminology. 


integrated. Problems resulted. The command chain, from task force commanders 
upwards to Eisenhower and his small AFHQ staff, was clear enough. So too was the 
command downward, from task force commander to supporting air forces. 
Connections in other directions, often necessary and useful in a combined 
operation, were weak. For example, in terms of aviation, Air Marshal Sir William 
Welsh of the Eastern Air Command, supporting the British First Army, had but very 
oblique coordination responsibilities for the Royal Air Force Middle East, Malta 
forces, and British naval aviation. As another example, the two air commanders, 
Welsh with the Eastern Air Command, and Doolittle with the Western Air 
Command that supported the American task forces, were not connected. They 
made their plans in isolation from one another. Planning for aviation was flawed 
by the separate tasking and areas of responsibilities for the ground and air support 
forces for the invasion. An important question asked by the planners was whether 
the flaws would jeopardize the invasion itself or whether they would be 
unimportant until forces had time to reorganize once solidly ashore. 1 * 

Operations: TORCH Landings and the Offensive Against Tunisia 

Casualties were light during the TORCH landings, 8 November 1942, at 
Casablanca and at Oran and Algiers. The inexperience of the forces was very 
evident. Even the British forces had not absorbed lessons from the successful 
Eighth Army operations in Libya. Fortunately, the Vichy French, having no heart 
for serious battle, undertook only a short-lived delaying action. The XII Air 
Support Command with Patton in the Western Task Force could not get Army Air 
Forces aircraft off the carriers that were carrying them to the invasion shore and 
into action until after the surrender at Casablanca. Naval aircraft picked up the 
responsibility, carrying out the necessary air cooperation tasks. Only air support 
parties and service personnel of the XII Air Support Command became involved in 
the action by participating in a II Corps infantry assault. The 31st Fighter Group 
flew to Oran to help the naval air forces support Fredendall and his ground forces 
in a brief battle for Oran, but the French surrendered that city on D-Day plus 2. 
The Royal Air Force helped, in a minor fashion, the Eastern Assault Force, led by 
Maj. Gen. Charles W. Ryder. A successful assault on Algiers, in order to facilitate 
seizure of Tunisia, was the most important object of Operation TORCH. Algiers 


surrendered on the evening of D-Day.!5 

As the troops were congratulating themselves, General Anderson arrived in 
Algiers to start the push eastward. The British First Army and, for close air 
support, the Royal Air Forces' No. 2^2 Group, Eastern Air Command, made up the 
main force. Attached to Anderson's task force were a few Free French and 
American elements. The largest American unit was a tank regiment of Combat 
Command B, commanded by Col. Paul M. Robinett. Supporting American air 
elements, including the 60th Troop Carrier Group (C-47s), l^th Fighter Group (P- 
38s), and 15th Bombardment Squadron (A-20s), were employed by the Eastern Air 
Command within a few weeks. Six hundred miles to the east, in Tunisia, the 
Germans were assembling a large counterforce. Time became important, with 
winter rains expected in December and Rommel in full retreat before Montgomery, 
westward toward Tunisia. *6 

As with the TORCH landings, the Allies underestimated the opposition and 
problems associated with a winter campaign hundreds of miles across Algeria and 
Tunisia. Their planners had assumed that the Vichy French and local Arabs would 
not effectively deter the rush eastward and that the Axis would not build a strong 
defense. Air and ground leaders did not make a great effort to absorb the lessons 
of mobile warfare, including the revival of the principle of mass dictated by 
Montgomery's Eighth Army experience. Anderson led the forces with the British 
First Army, which was composed of one incomplete division and a few smaller 
units, including a small portion of the American 1st Armored Division. British 
tactical air forces and portions of the Twelfth Air Force provided close air support. 
Troops were well trained, but the force included neither experienced, battle- 
tested, leaders nor individual units. Anderson spread his attacking force in a 
north-to-south formation in the drive eastward towards Tunisia. His intent was to 
prevent Axis units from harassing the main drive along the coast, but the spread 
formation precluded concentration of forces to push through Axis defenses just 
then building up in Tunisia (Map 3 ). Allied intelligence initially underestimated 
Axis strength in numbers of aircraft, vehicles, and defensive weapons. Then, by 
the end of November, as additional Allied units were called in to beef up the attack 
against determined Axis air and ground forces, the logistical support broke down, 
and the forces at the front could not be adequately supplied. 



MAP 3 

A host of problems affecting general operations likewise limited the air- 
ground support system. Long distances and inadequate transportation facilities 
limited logistics support for the air forces as well as the army. A lack of all- 
weather airfields forced units to crowd onto workable fields, and the long distances 
to targets limited the time Allied support aircraft could loiter over the battlefield 
waiting for calls from the ground (Map » ). Lack of radar and inadequate 
communications systems encouraged Anderson to look for alternatives in his air 
support. He ignored standard doctrine, for example, when he resorted to extensive 
employment of aircraft in defensive cover missions to try to stop the aggressive 
German air attacks. This left insufficient aircraft for other close air support tasks 
and other tactical functions, such as air superiority, supply interdiction, and 

In mid-November, when Anderson moved his headquarters eastward towards 
the Algerian-Tunisian border, he asked the Royal Air Force to carefully coordinate 
with his ground forces the obviously inadequate number of aircraft. Air 
Commodore G. M. Lawson moved into a command post next door to facilitate air- 
ground support. Evidence suggests that the interrelationship was not effective; 
Lawson was not able to control the few American units transferred to the British- 
led task force, raising the charge that air and ground leaders were conducting 
separate warfare. For their part, airmen claimed that many mission requests 
produced ineffective results and that aircraft were wasted on missions to satisfy 
demands of subordinate ground commanders. The record shows extensive air 
activity during the third week of November, when fighters flew nearly fifteen 
hundred reconnaissance and top-cover defense sorties. Unfortunately, it is never 
clear how many of these were conducted as close air support missions, as opposed 
to general air support work. Eisenhower was becoming convinced that one way to 
attack the problem of air support was to bring air units under the more centralized 
control of an air commander. 

During the last week in November, when Anderson attacked with his force's 
greatest energy, the air arms flew nineteen hundred sorties, twice the number of 
the Axis. Close air support in terms of defensive covers continued, but most air 
missions were given to bombing the supply line and hitting shipping and air bases. 
The intensive air action produced heavy aircraft losses and damage that could not 



MAP 4 

be overcome by shorthanded maintenance crews or replacement aircraft and crews. 
The greatest problem, according to the ground commanders, was the repeated 
attack by the supposedly obsolete German Stukas. Fighters would be called up for 
defensive cover, but because of the great distances, the fighter loitering time was 
brief. While the Allied aircraft were in the air, German dive bombers merely 
returned to their airfields and waited for the all-clear signal. Allied air forces 
could not provide enough continuity in their air cover. I* 

Because Allied air support forces could not stem the enemy air attacks over 
the battlefield, some ground commanders complained. Robinett, now a brigadier 
general, insisted "that men cannot stand the mental and physical strain of constant 
aerial bombing without feeling that all possible is being done to beat enemy air 
efforts." Brig. Gen. Terry Allen, commander of the U.S. 1st Infantry Division 
during the invasion of Oran, suggested that division command staffs should include 
an air adviser. Allen had been assigned a temporary air adviser, Col. Harold 
Fowler, during the landing assault, to help plan air support for the ground forces. 
Allen saw great weakness in the "on call" air support by which requests went up 
through the various levels of army command and down through the air force 
echelons. The method was too slow. He wanted a system that assured "prompt air 
support against anticipated targets in the zone of advance of the major effort."^ 

Eisenhower agreed that enemy "strafing and dive-bombing" were responsible 
for stopping the attempted advances of the First Army. Anderson suggested that 
unless the enemy attacks could be reduced, Allied forces would have to withdraw 
to a position where they could get cover. The ground commanders were even more 
adamant about cover because they did not see or know of reciprocal air attacks 
against enemy troops. Eisenhower and Anderson were probably unaware that 
Churchill, in reference to use of the air umbrella in the Western Desert the year 
previous, had forbidden the use of aircraft in troop-cover operations because it was 
a waste of resources. The air doctrine of both Allied forces also rejected 
employment of air cover as an inefficient use of air resources. Nevertheless, the 
orders of insistent ground commanders carried weight, and airmen continued 
assigning ineffective air cover missions. When the battle got worse for the Allies, 
airmen pointed to improper employment of air cover as an important cause for 
failure. But the air forces failed in other areas of air support. Fighter groups 


continued their offensive air missions against enemy air bases and air defense over 
friendly forces, but were not trained for strafing. Light bombers, originally 
designed for close air support work, proved useless against well-protected targets 
and were assigned night bombardment duties, which minimized enemy defensive 
fire from aircraft or ground antiaircraft artillery. The Allies had no effective 
ground attack aircraft until mid-December, when they brought in some modified P- 
40s and Hurricanes that would serve as fighter-bombers. 19 

Believing that victory in Tunisia depended on full employment of air power, 
and the fact that the ground forces were unable to break Axis defense, Eisenhower 
halted the offensive. Winter rains and mud made the operations difficult 
throughout December. Ground forces, with supporting air units, probed at 
weaknesses in the German lines, but the offense was uncoordinated and 
opportunistic. Until mid-January, Allied operations aimed at local consolidation 
and keeping pressure on the enemy. The air forces started work on new airfields 
closer to the battlefield. Eastern Air Command and Twelfth Air Force bombers 
continued the interdiction attacks on ports, supply dumps, shipping, and airfields in 
Tunisia and Sicily, but generally the enemy retained air superiority in the region. 20 

Operations: Reorganization and the Second Tunisian Offensive 

While many Twelfth Air Force units had been released to aid the First Army 
in November and December of 1942, Allied leaders held back a number of units in 
western Algeria and Morocco, and assigned them to protect the lines of 
communications with Gibraltar and England. The usefulness of these units for 
operations against the Axis was limited, because personnel and units lacked 
operational training and because poor transportation facilities prevented supply and 
maintenance of additional troops on the battlefront. In view of his dual mission to 
protect the lines of communications in Morocco and Algeria and to support 
Anderson's drive against Tunisia in November, Doolittle began organizing the air 
forces into flexible composite commands, each with a specific geographic area of 

By the end of December Eisenhower, more satisfied with the pacification of 
Morocco and Algeria and willing to increase force strength for the campaign in 


Tunisia, invalidated the need for Doolittle's small composite air forces. Rather, 
Eisenhower agreed with ground and air commanders that the time was ripe for a 
centralized air command in the Mediterranean, to coordinate the air forces better. 
On 5 January 1943, with British concurrence, he instituted a new layer in the air 
command structure, designating a new air force headquarters, the Allied Air 
Forces, at his headquarters in Algiers. He appointed his air adviser, General 
Spaatz, commander of this Allied Air Force. Spaatz had great influence organizing 
the British and American air effort in Tunisia, but he had difficulty coordinating 
the widely separated air units because communications was crude and inadequately 
supplied. AFHQ, the headquarters of British and American armies, the Navy, and 
even the Allied Air Force were in different locations in Algeria and Morocco. 
Sometimes motorcycles were the only available means for transmitting messages 
and command instructions. 

Eisenhower also accepted the British concept of dividing major mission 
responsibilities by function rather than by national consideration. Nevertheless, a 
tendency of maintaining national unity in lower echelons prevailed throughout the 
war. The reorganization again left close air support functions without central 
direction on the battlefield. In the new Allied air force structure Doolittle's 
bomber organization would specialize in deep-strike bombing missions, and the 
Royal Air Force would specialize in air-ground support. Eisenhower assigned Air 
Commodore Lawson the task of close air support for British First Army. When 
American forces began to be deployed, Eisenhower could not resist letting the 
American airmen support American ground forces, and the Twelfth Air Force 
carried out support to the American ground forces in Tunisia, as well as its 
bombing missions. 21 

In January 1943 Eisenhower decided to intensify efforts in central Tunisia; 
favorable weather conditions promised better results along the coast, where mud 
and strong defensive positions slowed Anderson's First Army (Map 5) . Eisenhower 
designated Fredendall's II Corps as the principal ground force for the advance 
against the German communications line that ran north to south through Tunisia. 
Important to later events, a new Free French element was slipped in between the 
American and British forces operating in the north. Remaining at Algiers, 
Eisenhower assumed direct command of military operations on the entire front, 





Youks les Bains 



el Aioun , 


American Battlefield 
in Southern Tunsia 



i, 1 





: eriana 


El Guettar^ 


, Sened 

El Hamma 



Mareth Line ■ 




Ben Gardane 

exercising that command through a ground deputy, Brig. Gen. Lucian K. Truscott, 
Jr., stationed at Constantine, a hundred or so miles from the front. Spaatz, as 
Eisenhower's staff air officer, and the Twelfth Air Force played an integral part in 
AFHQ planning. Spaatz directed air force operations of continuing interest to the 
theater, including close air support; interdiction against Axis forces, shipping, 
ports, and airfields; reconnaissance service; and air defense. Spaatz also surveyed 
the battlefield with Maj. Gen. Mark W. Clark in an attempt to develop better 
cooperation between air and ground units. 22 

Eisenhower moved the XII Air Support Command from Morocco and, 
following previous procedures, attached it to II Corps. Spaatz sought to tie the air 
and ground forces together by appointing a XII Air Support colonel to serve as 
liaison officer with the British First Army and by dedicating airplanes to both of 
the major ground commanders, Anderson and Fredendall. Brig. Gen. Howard A. 
Craig, who replaced Cannon as the commander of the XII Air Support Command, 
outlined a conventional air support plan: He would locate his headquarters next to 
II Corps Headquarters; his fighter and light bomber groups would serve as the basic 
force, but other Twelfth Air Force units could be called in as necessary; an 
advanced operations command post would help control air units in the advanced 
combat area; and air support parties with HF and VHF radio sets would be 
attached to combat commands or teams. 23 

Craig's plans indicated that close air support missions would be a large part 
of the XII Air Support Command's efforts but that other tactical missions were 
important as well, and ground commanders would have to appreciate certain air 
limitations. He stipulated that air missions be planned in advance and that 
extemporaneous calls for air support be kept to a minimum. Prior to D-Day, all 
available air units would reconnoiter the front and flanks of the advance route. 
Fighter sweeps would hit enemy air installations and, joining with light bombers, 
they would attack any enemy counteroffense. Close air support air cover for the 
advancing forces would be "provided only at critical places and for limited 
periods." For full daylight cover, other Twelfth Air Force fighter aircraft would 
have to be called into the campaign. Orders for missions would come from the Air 
Support Command. Craig asserted that the Air Support Command would exert a 
maximum effort against previously identified enemy targets, but that a large 


portion of the air strength would be held "in readiness for calls from the Air 
Support Parties with the several elements of the Division and Corps." 2 * 

On 17 January II Corps was just beginning a forward movement in central 
Tunisia when it was preempted by a German counterattack at a weak spot in the 
line— the French defenders located between the Americans in the south and British 
forces in northern Tunisia. The British 6th Armoured Division as well as Robinett's 
armor moved to the aid of the retreating French. The action was over quickly. By 
the twenty-fifth the German advance was halted. The Royal Air Force's tactical 
air organization, No. 242 Group, put up daily fighter-bomber sorties, but the XII 
Air Support Command gave only minor aid during the eight days of defensive 
action. Post-battle evaluation suggested several reasons for lack of aid from the 
XII Air Support Command, including an inhibiting enemy air superiority, inadequate 
command and control of available close air resources, and ineffective tactics. 2 ^ In 
an interview Maj. Gen. Lunsford E. Oliver, who had been Combat Command B 
commander earlier, suggested that, with enemy air superiority, ground forces 
needed a quicker response time when they requested air support. The system of 
requests going up and down command echelons was too slow. Instead, "We've got to 
be able to call for our support planes that are actually in the air." 2 * 1 

The first intense encounters with German forces revealed a flaw in American 
support bombardment tactics. Their use of light and medium bombers for low-level 
close air support missions proved disastrous because of effective German light 
antiaircraft artillery. Arnold's fears about the new bombers were justified. The A- 
20, B-25, and B-26 crews were forced to high altitude operations while in the 
middle of combat operations. While flying at a new altitude of 10,000 feet was not 
difficult, trying to hit targets using crude bomb sights and flying in formation 
proved impossible without intense training. The airmen had some succcess 
experimenting with the British fighter-bomber technique using bomb-carrying 
fighters to attack front-line targets. Fighter resources were overstrained, 
however, trying to provide escort for bombers and area defense for airfields and 
for the ground operations attacked by offensive-minded Axis air forces. 

There was blame for all. Although poor training and inadequate numbers of 
aircraft were at the heart of the complaints from the II Corps, airmen also found 
fault with II Corps' ignorance of Army air doctrine. For example, the II Corps 


commander, Fredendall, refused a request for air reconnaissance from the French, 
suggesting that the French sector was not his responsibility. In another instance 
Spaatz felt it was necessary to come to Fredendall's headquarters to complain 
about the improper use of reconnaissance aircraft. Contrary to Spaatz's orders, 
Fredendall had ordered light bomber missions over enemy territory, when the 
bombers were equipped with sensitive gear that would jeopardize Allied security if 
captured. Spaatz insisted that Fredendall should not attempt to operate the air 
resources without a knowledgeable airman by his side and that the XII Air Support 
Command commander, Craig, should control the air resources until air and ground 
headquarters could be joined. Eisenhower recognized the difficulty of coordinating 
forces across national lines, and taking a cue from Allied leaders at Casablanca, on 
21 January he assigned Anderson coordinating responsibilities for all Allied 
forces. 27 

At the same time, Eisenhower ordered his staff air operations officer, Brig. 
Gen. Laurence S. Kuter, to command all Allied air support operations. Within a 
few days, Eisenhower recognized the difficulty for Anderson to coordinate 
independent commands spread over a broad front. On 26 January Anderson was 
given command over the Allied forces in the Tunisian offensive. Kuter was now 
directly responsible to Anderson, and he located his headquarters with Anderson's 
at Constantine. Kuter's Allied Air Support Command coordinated missions for the 
XII Air Support Command and the No. 2*2 Group and passed bombing requests to 
Twelfth Air Force and Eastern Air Command. Always concerned with theater 
strategy, Eisenhower informed Anderson that the Allied air forces would continue 
to attack Rommel's communications lines. The command arrangement developed 
by Eisenhower began to resemble even more the air forces doctrinal model for 
centralized theater control of air. 2 * 

On 30 January the Germans launched their second of three major offensives 
against the Allies in Tunisia, this one also against the French sector. Eisenhower 
attached II Corps under the command of the British First Army, although Anderson 
in turn directed Fredendall to command all ground forces in the area of attack. 
Anderson and Fredendall did not have a system to coordinate the air support, 
except through the efforts of Kuter at Allied Air Support Command. Close air 
support promised to be a problem, and the likelihood of a problem was increased by 


the appointment of a new commander for the XII Air Support Command. Col. Paul 
L. Williams had a reputation of being compliant to ground commanders. He also 
carried less rank and influence than Craig. 

For five days Allied forces fought a defensive battle, finally retreating to 
stronger positions. Again, Allied air could not gain superiority over Axis air and 
was still too weak to play a decisive role against the Axis ground advance. With 
assistance from Rommel's German Desert Air Force and the Italian air forces, 
which had been forced back by the British in the east, the Axis kept effective 
control of the air over Tunisia. In the middle of the battle German Stukas laid a 
vicious attack on the 1st Armored Division's Combat Command D.* Ground 
commanders again asked for more air cover. Williams directed some strafing and 
bombing attacks against German assault forces in direct support of Allied ground 
operations. He allocated aircraft for interdiction strikes, especially at 
communications in the German rear. He also coordinated with Kuter's Allied Air 
Support Command the employment of other air organizations, including some 
interdiction missions by the Twelfth Air Force fighters and bombers, even the B- 
17s normally used for more distant targets, against the German rear. 

Williams also complied with the ground commander's requests for a defensive 
air umbrella, and on one occasion, on 1 February, his fighter cap caught and broke 
up attacking Stuka and Messerschmitt Me-109 fighter escort formations. However, 
the intense activity in close air support and other tactical missions extracted a 
price from XII Air Support Command resources. Flying organizations were 
debilitated. For example, the most experienced fighter unit, the 33d Fighter 
Group, suffered so many losses it was forced into retirement in Morocco for 
regrouping. Air and ground leaders learned about the attrition of air resources in 
air-ground missions, namely, that aircraft were easily used up and as vulnerable as 
air doctrine suggested. Leaders also recognized that defensive air operations, 
especially covers flown on a broad-fronted war, used up all available resources. 
Either more aircraft were needed to respond to the requests of the ground 
commanders or Williams would have to allocate his aircraft more judiciously. 29 

*The 1st Armored Division was organized into four subunits to facilitate separate 
taskings: Combat Commands A, B, C, and D. 


Eisenhower felt that the Army's failure stemmed from the confusion of battle 
and inexperience of the troops, who were unable to maintain their composure in 
combat. He told Fredendall, Anderson, Spaatz, and other subordinate commanders 
that battle losses were caused "by failure of officers to carry out orders, by men 
failing to construct foxholes or slit trenches, by disregard of orders requiring use of 
vehicle blackout lights, by running vehicle columns closed up." He believed the 
troops had insufficient antiaircraft defenses, and he suggested that additional 
training was needed to teach ground troops not only that enemy dive bombers were 
vulnerable to small arms fire but also that they should "fire with every available 
weapon against enemy aircraft within range." 30 Eisenhower turned to the 
experienced Mideast British commanders for guidance. 

Eisenhower did not criticize the published air-ground doctrine; rather, he 
indicated that the problem with close air support operations lay in the need for air 

of existing doctrine. At the air support command level Williams also approved the 
basic doctrine in FM 31-35. Both men suggested that the combat practices were 
distorting some of the doctrine, especially the defensive stance necessary for air 
cover. Airmen had consistently asserted, and published doctrine stated, that air 
umbrellas overtaxed the limited resources and were, by their very nature, 
incomplete and ineffective. In addition, if the air support commander allocated his 
resources for a widespread defensive cover, he would be unable to concentrate his 
forces for the air superiority campaign. The only way to stop the enemy air 
attack, according to current Army Air Force doctrine, was to give it the highest 
priority and destroy aircraft in offensive air actions and attacks on enemy air 
bases. At Eisenhower's headquarters Kuter asserted that the German dive bomber 
attack on Combat Command D marked the only time American troops suffered 
greatly under destructive German air attack, even though Stukas attacked on 
several occasions. In summary, air and ground leaders at theater level agreed that 
the air and ground forces put great effort into close air support but failed to apply 
published doctrine. It would take more education and training to change the ground 
commanders' minds on the danger of Stukas before they would decrease their 
demands for increased air support. Close air support practices and doctrine were 
not yet in accord on the battlefield. 32 


Operations: Kasserine and a New Look at Close Air Support 

In mid-February 19^3 the Axis attacked in central Tunisia again.33 This 
time Rommel, who had been retreating westward across Tripolitania, running from 
Montgomery and the British Eighth Army, gathered enough forces to hit the center 
of the Allied line in Tunisia. The forewarned II Corps forces were just then 
preparing a defense. Rommel attempted to split Eisenhower's Allied forces in 
Western Tunisia while protecting his flank from Montgomery's forces. 

took heavy losses, even though commanders concentrated the bulk of the Allied air 
support resources and ground forces in the central region. Troops could not protect 
airfields and artillery brigades, which were overrun. Tanks, half-tracks, and mobile 

artillery were captured and destroyed by the hundreds. Strengthened with British 
armor, Fredendall tried to maintain a defense in Kasserine Pass on 18 February, 
but German units overcame Allied defenders and poured through the pass on the 

The XII Air Support Command ordered missions, but the effort was 
diminished because the forward bases were lost and aircraft were forced to fly 
greater distances for fuel and munitions. The Allied Air Support Command in 
Constantine reinforced the defense by calling in additional Twelfth Air Force 
resources, including medium and heavy bombers, fighters, and transports. Light 
bomber and fighter units tried to furnish defensive cover over retreating Allied 
troops. Success was mixed with failure. On one occasion fighter-bombers had 
appreciable effect bombing and strafing enemy infantry, guns, and tanks. On 
another occasion friendly ground fire was deadly to the air forces— on 21 and 22 
February, Combat Command B antiaircraft fire turned back American flights, 
destroying five planes and damaging other friendly ground attack aircraft. 

On the twenty-second British Tommies and Churchill tanks stopped a German 
Panzer unit near the border of Tunisia and Algeria, an event which seemed to take 
the spirit out of Rommel's offensive. On the twenty-third, with great effort, the 
Allies counterattacked and pushed the Germans back through the pass. Hoping to 
conserve his tanks for the continuing fight against the British Eighth Army, 
Rommel pulled his forces into defensive positions in the next range of mountains to 

French and British forces, as well as II Corps units in the region, 


the east. The battle around the Kasserine turned out to be the last serious Axis 
offensive effort in Africa, 

The Allied debacle at Kasserine exposed some structural as well as 
technological failings and underestimations about necessary force strength to 
battle the Axis powers. Allied forces in Tunisia were not as experienced in mobile 
warfare as the Axis or Allied forces in the Western Desert. Both air and ground 
force leaders assessed air support as ineffective. As usual, the ground forces 
commanders got less air support than they wanted. Some crippling problems, 
common to battle, limited the effectiveness of air operations. Like many ground 
units, air squadrons had been overrun by Rommel's attack. Forward bases, fuel, 
bombs, and supplies had to be abandoned or destroyed. Disrupted communications 
caused by the retreating defense hampered interaction. A more dramatic 
limitation resulted from bad flying weather from 18 to 21 February. Even heavy 
bombers, called in for the occasion, could not find targets through the overcast. 
Not until the twenty-second, during the repulse, could the Allied air forces help 
significantly. The Allies were not alone in blaming the weather for their 
performances. Rommel attested to the bad weather. He blamed his failed offense 
on weather that grounded the Luftwaffe . 

Complaints and commentary about air support came from every direction. 
The attack by enemy aircraft was intense enough to cause many ground troops to 
shoot at any plane in sight. Pilots complained about fire from friendly forces, and 
the situation was desperate enough to cause Combat Command B Commander 
Robinett to order that his troops not fire on any aircraft until after an attacker 
showed national colors. Doolittle suggested, unsuccessfully, that the Allies should 
stop ground operations and undertake an intensive air campaign to destroy the 
enemy air forces before continuing the Tunisian campaign. Even Churchill 
complained about the air support operations, blasting the failure of the Allied 
forces to build up satisfactory air superiority when so many first-line aircraft and 
large numbers of support personnel had been committed to aviation in Tunisia. The 
prime minister also suggested that the apparent inadequacy of allocated resources 
pointed to the need for an even greater allotment of war materials for Tunisia. 
Americans had been expected to provide the quantity necessary to win the war, and 
military leaders could be rightfully embarrassed when these battles in Tunisia 


pointed to a failure of their arms- The airmen began to realize that a tough enemy 
required even more resources than originally conceived and that greater intensity 
and commitment were needed to defeat the Axis. 

Of all the critics, none was more influential than British Air Vice Marshal Sir 
Arthur Coningham, who replaced Kuter as commander of the centralized Allied Air 
Support Command during the Kasserine operation. While Eisenhower was opposed 
to the British "committee system"* of command, he also advocated a commander 
having the flexibility to organize forces to suit national proclivities, and he gave 
Coningham the freedom to operate by his own style. Coningham now helped 
convince Eisenhower and other high-level Allied leaders that close air support 
forces must be organized on a basis of scarcity and that, in particular, ground 
commanders could not expect as much close air support as they heretofore thought 
necessary. In the context of military reversals, such as Kasserine, the senior 
leaders of the Tunisian campaign found the economy-of-force principle more 

Coningham ultimately discontinued several other Tunisian cooperative 
practices, some first seen when he took over the Western Desert Air Force. He 
criticized the defensive air cover flying mode, then used by the XII Air Support 
Command and No. 242 Group. With the scarcity concept accepted, he promoted 
the centralization of all tactical air resources under his control as air specialist 
on the staff of the highest field commander. Division and corps commanders would 
have to request close air support through the highest army commander. Although 
they were primarily associated with their national force, the XII Air Support 
Command and No. 242 Group would be commanded by Coningham rather than by 
the II Corps or British First Army commanders. Coningham condemned the former 
employment practice of having fighters on call and assigning them piecemeal to a 
variety of targets that were not critical to the battle. He proclaimed that, 
henceforth, air support missions would be offensive, with fighters seeking out the 
enemy's air force at or near Axis bases. For ground attack missions, enemy 

*The British met in committee and argued collectively for consensus on a decision, 
whereas the American military system placed decision-making authority in the 
hands of a single commander. 


concentrations and soft-skinned vehicles, rather than tanks, would be appropriate 
targets. Centralized control was a fundamental premise of Coningham's air 
support concept. In view of limited air resources, all aircraft units should be used 
in the highest priority missions. None could be held in reserve for the future use 
of a currently inactive ground unit. Coningham, or another air commander fully 
conversant with air capabilities, would determine allocation and employment upon 
the ground commander's determination of objectives. 

Coningham's opinions were important because the Combined Chiefs of Staff 
saw him as a natural to command all tactical air resources in the new 
Mediterranean Theater organization arranged at Casablanca in January 1943. He 
was the primary choice for tactical command because of his success in combat 
operations. Coningham saw a need to reform and remodel Allied forces in Tunisia, 
like the successful Western Desert Army and Western Desert Air Force 
combination that was, just then, destroying Rommel's forces in Libya, Allied 
leaders in Casablanca endorsed his plan of operations when they gave him control 
over American and British air support forces in the Mediterranean, forces which 
were renamed as "tactical" air forces at that time. 

The Casablanca reorganization resulted partially from a need to unify or 
centralize command of all forces converging around Tunisia, to prepare for the 
next strategic offensive, and to answer some of the weaknesses apparent in the 
Tunisian command organization. Instead of separate commands in the western and 
eastern sides of North Africa, forces were centralized under Eisenhower's 
command. Instead of close air support commanded directly by an army, corps, or 
task force commander, a tactical headquarters filtered requests and requirements. 
Centralization of air resources, including the centralized tactical forces under 
Coningham, followed substantially the British model of organizing equality 
between air and ground commanders in field operations, with the exception of a 
single commander at the theater level. The Combined Chiefs of Staff appointed 
Eisenhower commander-in-chief of all Mediterranean forces and gave him three 
British deputy commanders, one each for air, ground, and sea. They appointed 
General Sir Harold R. L. G. Alexander as the overall ground force commander with 
the title of chief of the 18th Army Group. The British First and Eighth Armies 
were the two principal ground force subordinates of this new group. The U.S. II 
Corps, commanded by Fredendall, Patton, and then Maj. Gen. Omar N. Bradley, in 


succession, represented the smaller American contingent reporting to the 18th 
Army Group. Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder became the chief of all air 
units, excepting naval aviation, in the Mediterranean Air Command, with its three 
regional air forces: Northwest African Air Forces, Malta Air Command, and 
Middle East Command (Chart 2 ). 

The Northwest African Air Forces (NAAF), commanded by Spaatz, was the 
largest and most important air organization in the Tunisian campaign. Although 
Allied leaders divided NAAF into functional units— strategic, tactical, and coastal 
air forces; service and training commands; and a photographic reconnaissance 
wing— the primary purpose of NAAF was almost exclusively tactically oriented. 
The mission was to cooperate with the land force. Either directly or indirectly, the 
forces were dedicated to furthering the advance of the land campaign. Along with 
the indirect interdiction missions, the tactical forces had a specific charge to 
provide close air support. Under Coningham, the No. 242 Group worked with the 
British First Army; the Western Desert Air Force worked with Montgomery and the 
Eighth Army; and the XII Air Support Command worked with the U.S. II Corps. 

The Combined Chiefs of Staff gave Coningham the title of commander of 
Northwest African Tactical Air Force (NATAF), the new organization providing air 
support to the forces in Africa. NATAF "coincided" with the Army group level 
controlling all air support units dedicated to the ground forces. Programmed to be 
implemented at the end of February, when Montgomery's forces were scheduled to 
enter southern Tunisia, Allied leaders precipitated an early reorganization because 
of the German Kasserine offensive. The mixture of American and British officers 
on theater and field staffs served to give the more experienced British greater 
influence. Certainly, in the case of air support doctrine, Coningham's 
methodology, learned in the Western Desert, was pressed on American air support 
units. Many of Coningham's ideas were not unique to British air support. For 
example, Eisenhower had already centralized army command under Anderson and 
had directed Spaatz to coordinate air support through the Allied Air Support 
Command formed in January. 3* 

Coningham had the reputation to sway the debate on some of the fine points 
separating ground and air force versions of ground support doctrine. On the 
concept of central control, airmen were pleased. Many ground commanders in 


Chart 2 — Allied Command Relationships in North Africa and the Mediterranean, March 1943 

Northwest African 
Strategic Air Force 

Maj Gen J. H. Doolittle 

Air Command 

Air Chief Marshal 
Sir Arthur Tedder 

Lt Gen Carl W. Spaatz, USAAF 

Northwest African 
Air Service Command 

Brig Gen D. H. Dunton 

Northwest African 
Tactical Air Force 

Northwest African 
Air Forces 

Malta Air Command 


Middle East Command 


Air Vice Marshal 
Sir Keith Park 

Air Chief Marshal 
Sir W. Sholto Douglas 

Northwest African 
Training Command 

Brig Gen J. K. Cannon 

Northwest African 
Coastal Air Force 

RAF Mideast 

Northwest African 
Reconnaissance Wing 

Allied Force 

Gen Dwight D. Eisenhower 


1 8 Army Group 


Gen Sir Harold R. L. G. Alexander 

Br First Army 

Lt Gen Kenneth Anderson 

Br 5 Corps 

XIX Fr Corps 

Adm Sir Andrew Browne Cunningham, RN 


Br Eighth 

Levant, RN 


Commander Eighth Fleet 


US Fifth 

Fr 1 Div ■ 

Gen Sir Bernard Montgomery Admiral Sir Henry Harwood 

Gen Edgar 
de Larminat 

US II Corps Br (Prov) 

Vice Admiral 
H. K. Hewitt 

NZ Corps 

Br 10 Corps 

Lt Gen Mark Wayne Clark 

US I Corps 

Br 30 Corps 

Lt Gen C. W. Allfrey 

Ninth Air Force 



Br 1 Div 

Maj Gen W. E. 

Air Marshal 
Sir Arthur Coningham 

Air Vice Marshal 
Hugh P. Lloyd 

Lt Col Elliott Roosevelt 

Maj Gen L. H. Brereton 

Armor unit 

Br 6 Div 

Maj Gen C. Keightley 

Br 46 Div 

Gen L. Koeltz 


Fr Div 

Gen Maurice Mathenel 

Br 78 Div 

Lt Gen G. S. Patton, Jr. 


Lt Gen Sir B. C. Freyberg 

Sir Brian G. Horrocks 

Lt Gen Sir Oliver Leese 

US 9 Div 

Maj Gen M. S. Eddy 

Fr Div 

US 1 Div 

Maj Gen O. Ward 

US 34 Div 

NZ 2 Div 


US 1 Div 

US 8 Bde 

Fr Bde 

4 Ind Div 

Br 1 Div 

Maj Gen R, Briggs 


Maj Gen 
Geoffrey Keyes 


Br 51 Div 

Maj Gen D. N. Wimberley 

Br 50 Div 

US V! 

Maj Gen 
E. J. Dawley 


US 2 Div 

Maj Gen E. N. Harmon 

Br 7 Div 

US 3 Div 

Maj Gen H, A. Freeman-Attwood Maj Gen V. Evelegh 

Gen E. Welvert 

Maj Gen C. W. Ryder 

Maj Gen Terry Allen 

Gen Jacques LeClerc 

Maj Gen F. I. S. Tuker 

Maj Gen J. S. Nichols 

Maj Gen G. Erskine 

Maj Gen L. K. Truscott, Jr. 

Source: Adapted by author from Howe, Northwest Africa, (facing) p. 486. 

infantry u 

Tunisia, including the two major British and American army field generals, 
Anderson and Fredendall, sought to use close air support aircraft to protect the 
ground troops from enemy air attacks through constant air cover; to attack targets 
immediately in front of the ground forces (like flying artillery); and, as observation 
platforms, to watch close-in and more distant troop movements. Anderson had not 
yet absorbed the doctrine of the Western Desert force; Fredendall had not agreed 
with some of the points regarding organization, selective mission assignment, and 
centralized command of air support, as expressed in contemporary War Department 
publications or in Eisenhower's directive published before the TORCH landings. 

Air leaders in Tunisia had been generally disappointed with Fredendall's 
practices, especially when combat had shown that air cover and constant alerts 
could not be carried out without an extraordinarily large air support force. Indeed, 
Allied leaders recognized that more aircraft were needed in North Africa. Before 
Kasserine and before Coningham's arrival in the Tunisian sector, the argument 
between Spaatz and Kuter on one side and Frendendall and Anderson on the other 
was more of a political tussle, with compromises that pleased no one. Ideas were 
bent, but the distinctive air and ground perspectives remained philosophically 

Coningham instituted subtle but important changes that challenged the 
previous way of doing business and gave air leaders greater control and influence in 
wartime air tactics. The air marshal divided tactical units into fighter and fighter- 

bomber organizations— the latter for close air support. He removed the light 
bombers from the air support units and put them under a tactical bomber 
organization that was centralized at a higher level, under Coningham at NATAF. 
Planning for air operations would be "determined by the air commander within the 
framework of the Army-Air plan approved by the Army commander." The air plan 
was as important as the ground plan: "The conception of making an army plan and 
then asking what air assistance can be provided for it will result in air power being 
overlooked during the important preliminary phases. . . ." 35 

Coningham boldly promoted the idea of independent air support with an 
endorsement from the successful Eighth Army commander, Montgomery. The 
British commander wanted other ground commanders to appreciate some basic 
aspects of air warfare. Coningham distributed to all air and ground commanders a 


Montgomery-inspired pamphlet that was aimed directly at the subject of control of 

close air support by ground generals. The pamphlet, illustrating many aspects of a 

complex air warfare, proclaimed successful British principles: 

Any officer who aspires to hold high command in war must understand 
clearly certain basic principles regarding the use of air power. 

The greatest asset of air power is its flexibility . . . the 
flexibility inherent in Air Forces permits them ... to be switched 
quickly from one objective to another in the theatre of operations. So 
long as this is realized, then the whole weight of the available air power 
can be used in selected areas in turn. This concentrated use of the air 
striking force is a battle-winning factor of the first importance. 

It follows that control of the available air power must be 
centralized and command must be exercised through Air Force 
channels. Nothing could be more fatal to successful results than to 
dissipate the air resources into small packets placed under command of 
army formation commanders, with each packet working on its own plan. 
The soldier must not expect or wish, to exercise direct command over 
air striking forces. 

Two adjacent HQs will provide the associated military and air 
commanders with the best opportunity of working together successfully. 
Physical proximity by itself will not produce the answer, unless it 
carries with it close individual contacts, a constant exchange of 
information and a frank interchange of views. 36 

On 16 February, in a presentation to Eisenhower and other Allied senior 
officers, Coningham briefed the leaders on the major ideas of duality in modern 
combat concepts, where air and ground leaders must recognize the difference, the 
coequality, and the need to cooperate as one united entity, as was evident in the 
Montgomery-Coningham team: 

The Soldier commands the land forces, the Airman commands the 
air forces; both commanders work together and operate their respective 
forces in accordance with a combined Army-Air plan, the whole 
operations being directed by the Army Commander. 

The Army fights on a front that may be divided into sectors, such 
as a Brigade, Division, Corps or an Army front. The Air front is 

The Army has one battle to fight, the land battle. The Air has 
two. It has first of all to beat the enemy air, so that it may go into the 
land battle against the enemy land forces with the maximum possible 
hitting power. 

The fighter governs the front, and this fact forces the 
centralization of air control into the hands of one air commander 
operating on that front. 


You will notice that the Army Commander does not use the word 
"co-operation." I submit that we in Eighth Army are beyond the co- 
operation stage, and that work is so close that we are, in effect, one 
unit. 37 

While most Allied airmen found Coningham's program acceptable, Coningham 
knew he had a difficult task to convince Allied field generals, especially if they 
would see fewer friendly aircraft over the battlefield. Coningham sent propaganda 
material to all leaders in the theater. The success of Montgomery and failure of 
Allied forces in western Tunisia helped sell the point. When Eisenhower and 
Alexander gave their approval, the implementation followed regardless of opinions 
of the field commanders. Some ground commanders disagreed and continued the 

Coningham tried to serve the needs of the ground forces. During the Allied 
counteroffensive against German forces in Kasserine, Coningham issued a directive 
to all airmen in NATAF: Maximum effort would be provided to support land 
operations; achieving and maintaining a high degree of air superiority would 
achieve that aim; and, with ground forces unhindered by enemy air attack, the air 
forces could give greater assistance to objectives in the rear battlefield area. 39 

As commander of NAAF and as Coningham's superior, Spaatz quietly 
supported the new changes for tactical aviation. He reported that ground troops 
were encouraged to support themselves, using antiaircraft guns against dive 
bomber attacks. If fighters developed an offensive against enemy air, then: 
"Fighter forces can be used with economy not only to protect our ground forces 
against dive bombing attacks ... but also effectively to engage the enemy in the 
struggle for air superiority." But Spaatz was also sensitive to the occasional cross- 
directions of air and ground leaders. He was very busy in the next few months 
keeping peace between irritated air and ground leaders. He ordered that greater 
effort be given to develop many close air support functions, including tactical 
reconnaissaince and fighter-bomber and level-bombing attack techniques. He saw 
the great need for training and perceived the importance of personality in "the 
proper coordination of air effort with ground ef fort."'* 

Back in the United States, Arnold's staff closely watched Coningham's 
activities and examined his doctrinal statements. Many air and ground staff 
officers had studied reports about close air support in the Western Desert. Some 


argued against the Casablanca decision to divide forces into strategic and tactical 
forces because it implied the very thing they were trying to avoid, namely, division 
of forces into separate inflexible entities. Arnold continued to advocate 
continuance of the radical strategic mission, dividing the air forces into tactical 
and strategic combat roles to ensure that division. Kuter, fresh from the front, 
became the chief spokesman for the new air support concept. In mid-May, Arnold 
called Kuter from his assignment as deputy commander of NATAF and made him 
assistant air chief of staff for plans.* 1 

Marshall and the War Department agreed that the North Africa campaign 
pointed to a revision of doctrine. Eisenhower authorized formation of a committee 
of air and ground officers to work with the General Staff, G-3 Division, and in 
short order the committee produced a newly formulated FM 100-20, Command and 
Employment of Air Power. Approved by Marshall and the War Department, the 
manual was published on 21 July 1943. The new doctrine acknowledged 
Coningham's emphasis on the flexibility of air power and need for centralized 
control under a knowledgeable air force commander, and that the theater 
commander would exercise command of air forces through the air force 

In some ways FM 100-20 was not especially innovative compared to prewar 
doctrinal statements in field manuals and directives, especailly the 1942 FM 31-35, 
Aviation in Support of Ground Forces. The contents suggested that the aviators' 
expertise should carry weight in employment of air resources; that the theater 
commander still made the final decisions on the disposition of ground and air 
resources, as in FM 31-35; and, paralleling Eisenhower's pre-TORCH directive, that 
"aviation units must not be parceled out as the advantage of massed air action and 
flexibility will be lost." Finally, FM 100-20 argued that close air support must be 
used prudently because "in the zone of contact, missions against hostile units are 
most difficult to control, are most expensive, and are, in general, least effective. 
Targets are small, well-dispersed, and difficult to locate. In addition, there is 
always a considerable chance of striking friendly forces. . . ," i * 2 

What was new about FM 100-20 was its frank proclamation of air power 
equality in joint warfare: "THE AIR STRIKING FORCE IS A BATTLE WINNING 


IS AN AUXILIARY OF THE OTHER." The manual asserted that a theater 
commander would exercise command of ground forces through an air force 
commander and command of ground forces through a ground force commander. 
Since the greatest asset of air power was its flexibility, "CONTROL OF 
COMMANDER (caps in original) »« 

It continued to argue, in bold type, that the first priority of tactical aviation 
was gaining air superiority. TORCH planners had recognized the importance of air 
superiority, but the new manual suggested that without it victory was unlikely: 
GREATLY REDUCED (caps in original)." The manual implied that air components 
must have overwhleming strength relative to opposing enemy air capabilities. 

More problematic to the establishment of good joint relationships and 
cooperative feelings, the manual established air interdiction and close air support 
as second and third priorities, respectively. The manual clearly implied that close 
air support had been subordinated, even though it emphasized positive goals of 
closely coordinating the air and land elements: "The destruction of selected 
objectives in the battle area in furtherance of the combined air-ground effort, 
teamwork, mutual understanding, and cooperation are essential for the success of 
the combined effort in the battle area." The document directed that cooperation 
would be carried out by "timely planning conferences of pertinent commanders and 
staffs, and through the exchange of liaison officers," and that air and ground liaison 
officers would be "well versed in air and ground tactics."^ 

Some ground force proponents in Washington and field commanders in North 
Africa were astounded. FM 100-20 had been approved without consulting McNair 
and the Army Ground Forces planners. However, the new doctrine was instituted 
immediately in Army ground school teachings. For example, in June 19^3, a month 
before 100-20 was published, the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia, ran a 
lead article on the new air-ground doctrine in its monthly journal, The Mailing List . 
(See illustrations from the journal on following pages). 


The primary aim of the tactical air force is to establish and maintain air 
superiority. Once air superiority has been obtained, air and ground forces can 
carry on the battle with little interference by enemy planes. Air superiority is 
obtained by attacking enemy airdromes and by destroying enemy planes on 
the ground and in the air. The battle for the capture of German forces in 
Tunisia began, according to General Kuter, with the attack of German 
airdromes by 90 night bombers. B-26's and A-20's took up the daytime attack. 
By the time the ground forces pushed off three days later, 1 1 2 German planes 
had been destroyed. 

Isolation of the battlefield is the second priority task of the tactical air force. 
This includes the disruption of enemy lines of communication, the destruction 
of supply dumps, installations and enemy troop concentrations in rear areas. 
If the enemy is denied food, ammunition, and reinforcements, swift, aggressive 
action by the ground forces will put him to rout. B-26's, shown above blasting 
enemy railroad lines, were used effectively for this purpose in the North African 

Air missions against hostile ground units in the field of battle are the most 
difficult to control, the most expensive, and the least effective. For these 
reasons, these missions are lowest on the order of priority for missions of the 
tactical air force. However, their successful execution is essential to the 
combined air-ground effort. The P-51 shown above is strafing an enemy artillery 
position, in the Sicilian campaign, the A-36 fighter-bomber (the P-51 equipped 
with dive brakes and wing bomb racks) specialized in attacking such small but 
worthwhile targets as truck convoys, trains, tanks, and artillery. 

In Africa Eisenhower's headquarters accepted and promoted the new air- 
ground relationship. In a sense, field commanders felt that they were forced to 
cooperate, in contradiction to Coningham's theme of a team spirit between ground 
and air forces. Eisenhower told Arnold that he agreed with the changes made with 
the air forces and that he had great faith in his chief air adviser, Spaatz, although 
the British charge that the "Air Force is subordinate to the Ground Forces" 
alarmed him. He implied that the battlefield in North Africa was bigger than 
doctrinal statements when he suggested that in a theater "where the character of 
the problem makes it predominantly air, we try to put an airman in charge; where 
the immediate problem is operations of Ground Forces, we make the top boss the 
Ground." After Kasserine, air and ground commanders, taking the new doctrinal 
statement with a grain of salt, immediately began to work out more practical, 
real-world solutions for close air support in joint operations.* 6 

Close Air Support After Kasserine 

As the weather improved in March 19*3, air commanders expanded their 
activities. Additional support aircraft, airfields, and supplies diluted some 
complaints from the ground forces. Air planning became more an integral part of 
the theater campaign planning. The airmen moved in as an integral part of 
Alexander's 18th Army Group.* 7 As Kuter described the scene: "Alexander 
controlled the land forces in the battle area. Coningham controlled the air forces 
in the battle area." The two commanders held daily consultations, making "their 
plans together, each stating what his force could contribute toward the general 
victory. They worked in complete harmony." In some cases, factors important to 
the air forces, such as need for close-in airfields and radar sites, were given 

As Montgomery's forces joined the western Tunisian force, combined efforts 
between air and ground demonstrated aviation's flexibility. For example, when 
Montgomery was ready to break through the Mareth Defensive Line, all three air 
support forces concentrated for the task. The No. 242 Group left the British First 
Army, joining up with the XII Air Support Command of the II Corps to conduct a 
campaign against the German aircraft and airfields that might challenge the 


British ground advance. The two forces kept enemy air occupied so that the 
Western Desert Air Force could concentrate all its resources on assisting the 
advancing army. Fighter-bombers even carried out the commonly eschewed low- 
level attack operations on German ground troops. Shortly afterwards, the Desert 
Air Force was reassigned from Montgomery's forces to help the American and 
British forces in northen Tunisia. Writing to the tactical air forces, Alexander said 
that "without your support this drive would just not have been possible."^ 9 

Following the principles of flexibility, concentration, and primacy of theater 
interests, at times the close air support resources were transferred to coastal 
patrol missions. The Allies fully expected that they would shortly push the Axis 
out of Africa. Partly, this was predicated on an expectation of stopping the 
German resupply from Sicily, Sardinia, and Italy. Using radar and communications 
intercepts, the air forces tried to choke off support to surviving German forces in 
North Africa, which maintained a tenacious defense to the end. Airmen hoped that 
the interdiction might force a surrender. In fact, Germany lost hundreds of 
aircraft and tons of shipping in three months of heavy action, but supply did not 
cease entirely. Interdiction was obviously less than completely successful when the 
Axis chose to put an almost endless effort into a final defensive stance, but 
interdiction greatly weakened the Axis and forced their early surrender. 50 

Eisenhower remarked that the new Mediterranean tactical organization 
"solved one of the most basic problems of modern warfare—how to apply air power 
most effectively to the support of land operations." He also saw that the corps and 
division commanders in combat would not be as pleased with the new order: 
"Direct support of ground troops is naturally the method preferred by the 
immediate military commander concerned," but his vision did not extend beyond 
the local battle. It did not consider "the competing demands of individual 
commanders on a far-flung battlefront, each of whom would naturally like to have 
at his disposal some segment of the Air Force for his own exclusive use." 51 

Concerns continued, personality and misunderstanding very much in tow. 
Stukas continually attacked Allied ground forces, although by April Axis aircraft 
were either destroyed or pulled out of the Tunisian campaign. The most celebrated 
case involved Patton and Coningham. On 1 April, while Patton was serving as 
commander of II Corps, his troops were bombed by enemy aircraft in a morning- 


long attack. He complained that the lack of air cover allowed the Germans to 
bomb all his division command posts and many supporting units. 52 


Coningham, angered by the tone of Patton's report, replied with his own 
report criticizing the bravery of the II Corps when the enemy attack resulted in 
only six American casualties. He suggested that the II Corps might not be battle 
worthy. The sharp personal exchange captured the attention of their senior 
commanders, including Eisenhower and his chief air deputy, Tedder. Eventually 
both Coningham and Patton were reprimanded for their bad manners and ordered to 
meet face to face. The high-level air-ground team remained tense for a time. 

Investigation of the incident illustrated the parochial interests in battle. 
Patton criticized the air support commanders for lack of fighter cover and 
particularly for their failure to stop an enemy tank advance. Williams, commander 
of the XII Air Support Command, claimed bad weather prevented the takeoff of 
aircraft designated for the job. He had even called the Western Desert Air Force 
for help, but he had cancelled the proposed mission when he heard that Patton's 
artillery had the tanks under control. Later in the Tunisian campaign, Patton 
admitted that he was generally getting good close air support. Spaatz reported 
that the lack of radar coverage and the separation of Patton's headquarters from 
Williams' contributed to the problem. He took Williams and Patton's chief of staff 
out to the Eighth Army and Western Desert Air Force to show them how a 
successful joint operation worked. 53 

Poor communications continued to be a serious factor throughout the 
Tunisian campaign. Spaatz urged increased employment of air support parties, 
assigned to ground forces, to call in requests and guide the ground commanders in 
air support methods. He hoped that some help could be derived from the light 
bombers that carried radios. Perhaps they could make air-ground contact and hit 
targets identified by the air support parties. Unfortunately, the more effective 
close air support fighter-bombers could not carry the heavy radios necessary for 
good air-ground communications. The latter still consisted primarily of ground 
smoke or colored panels if definite landmarks were not available. 5 ** 

Spaatz and Coningham gave individual attention to the sensitive air support 
situation. They tried to instill a practice consistent with concepts evoked at higher 
levels. Spaatz explained, in a letter to Arnold, how much personal effort by the air 


commanders was required to keep the peace between the strong-willed air and 
ground commanders. On one occasion Spaatz noticed that the centralized 
communications system operated from Alexander's 18th Army Group headquarters 
did not work adequately. Coordination was required both ways, up the command as 
well as down. Ground and air commanders needed to actively share problems and 
activities. In mid-April, after replacing Patton as commander of II Corps, Bradley 
expressed concern about the lack of aerial photographs and reconnaissance. Spaatz 
agreed that ground forces had not been given much observation support; most 
reconnaissance missions had sought intelligence for air force needs. Spaatz 
thought that he had found the problem in an ineffective air liaison officer assigned 
to II Corps. He asked Kuter to assign a more senior officer for the rest of the 
Tunisian campaign. 55 

By May Allied air forces, including the determined close air support units, 
helped the Allied ground forces corner 270,000 Axis troops in northeast Tunisia. 
Allied air finally dominated the Axis air forces, compelling all but a few scattered 
fighter units to operate from Sicily and Italy. In some ways the Allied offensive, 
including the air-ground cooperation, was remarkable, especially given one of the 

for major operations. Estimates of required air support in October 1942 had 
depressed everyone in the Washington and London planning circuits. The War 
Department had half expected North Africa to be a relatively safe place for 
advanced training, but the maneuvering of a combined Allied force proved to be 
difficult for inexperienced ground and air personnel. 

Some field generals were dubious about the adequacy of their air support. 
Neither the XII Air Support Command nor the combined Allied air forces could 
guarantee them protection from disruptive enemy air attack. Enemy aircraft over 
the battlefield diminished in number but continued their attacks, nonetheless, until 
the end of operations in May 1943. Division commanders often would get air 
support under the centralized command arrangement. Corps and army commanders 
could not depend on timeliness of requested air support. Friendly air support often 
proved ineffective in dislodging the defense-minded Axis ground forces, and air 
observation of enemy movements was not effective until the air forces could 
allocate enough escort fighters for the reconnaissance flights. 

TORCH— that American troops were not ready 


Air leaders were pleased with changes in air support organization and 
operational tactics. Greater understanding of aircraft limitations and capabilities 
by ground leaders, centralization of air support resources, and prioritization of 
missions allowed the air commander to exercise the accepted principles of air 
warfare better. The XII Air Support Command commander, Williams, reported that 
his forces were integrated into the larger theater air concerns, as well as those of 
the ground commanders he served. In his report on operations Williams noted that 
he and his principal staff officers "lived and operated with the Corps Commanders 
during most of the period." While a strong consensus pervaded the joint command 
posts, sometimes staff officers had to argue out issues. Williams stated that his air 
staff gave consideration to ground commanders who had urgent requests for close 
air support. The air support parties provided the communications system and had 
the experts to give ground commanders advice on the spot. Basically the airmen 
ran the air support operation, 80 percent of the support missions originating from 
their operations center. Both Fredendall and Patton had advised Williams not to 
wait for close air support requests: "You know what the situation is, just keep 
pounding them." 56 

Introduction of the fighter-bomber, fighters with bomb racks and extra 
armor, promised more effective attacks on the small well-protected targets 
favored by the ground forces. The new aircraft type, developed from combat 
experience, was also important as a symbol for the joint air-ground operations 
team. The close air support portion of the theater tactical air forces now had an 
aircraft specifically identified for ground attack. The air support command no 
longer relied only on fighter and light and medium bomber units that were also 
responsible for other Army Air Forces missions. Furthermore, now close air 
support was a more clearly defined mission of the theater tactical air forces, even 
if it held a lower priority than air superiority and battlefield isolation missions. 

The military and civilian leaders in Washington and London and the 
commanders in the Mediterranean Theater were generally pleased with close air 
support doctrine and practice, even though the debate over allocation of resources 
and precise points of force control continued among staff officers. Eisenhower 
appreciated the new centralized, more personal style of air support, although he 
worried that he was not effectively transmitting his thinking to the field 


commanders. New doctrinal points did not flow systematically through successive 
commanders. American inexperience, individualized field generalship, differing 
opinions about command, and enduring prejudices prevented a smooth transfer of 
close air support lessons. Much might be blamed on poor coordination of doctrine 
between theater and field staffs. The different viewpoints of theater and field and 
those of brigade, division, and corps levels were not bridged successfully. 
Inadequate command and control systems caused problems. The newly declared 
independence of the air forces, at a time when tactics and organization for air 
warfare were changing rapidly, put additional strain on the air-ground relationship. 
Air and ground leaders had to continue the struggle of forming a cooperative 
combat team. 57 


Endnotes— Chapter II 

1. John Terraine, A Time For Courage; The Royal Air Force in the European 
War, 1939-1945 (New York; Macmillan, 1985), pp. 337-51; Wesley Frank 
Craven and dames Lea Gates, eds., The Army Air Forces in World War II , 7 
vols. (Chicago: University Press, 1948-58), vol. 2, Europe: TORCH to 
POINTBLANK. August 1942 to December 1943 (1949), pp. 9-40; Craven and 
Cate, Plans and Early Operations , 1:339-41; Rpt, Maj Gen Lewis H. Brereton, 
3 Nov 42, sub: Direct Air Support in the Libyan Desert, USAFHRC Microfilm 
Collection, 145.96-64, MAFB. 

2. Craven and Cate, Europe: TORCH to POINTBLANK , 2:22-27. 

3. Operation Memo no. 17, 13 Oct 42, sub: Combat Aviation in Direct Support of 
Ground Units, Allied Force Headquarters (AFHQ), USAFHRC Microfilm 
Collection, 103.2808, MAFB. 

4. Ibid. 

5. Ibid. 

6. Ibid. 

7. Dwight David Eisenhower, The Papers of Dwight David Eisenhower , ed. 
Alfred D. Chandler, 3r., 5 vols. (Baltimore: 3ohn Hopkins Press, 1970), 2:874; 
George F. Howe, Northwest Africa: Seizing the Initiative in the West , 
United States Army in World War II (Washington, D.C.: Office of the Chief of 
Military History, Department of the Army, 1957), pp. 32-88; Craven and 
Cate, Europe: TORCH to POINTBLANK , 2:41-66; I. S. O. Playfair et al. t The 
Mediterranean and the Middle East , History of the Second World War: United 
Kingdom Military Series, 6 vols. (London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 
1954-73), vol. 4, The Destruction of the Axis Forces in Africa (1966), pp. 

8. Craven and Cate, Europe: TORCH to POINTBLANK , 2:50-66. 

9. Eisenhower, Papers of Dwight David Eisenhower , 1:445 and 474 and 2:837; 
Msg, Adjutant General, WD, to CGs, 1 Oct 42, sub: Reassignment of Army 
Air Force Units, USAFHRC Microfilm Collection, 651.271, MAFB; Ltr, Maj 
Gen George S. Patton, 3r., to Brig Gen 3. K. Cannon, 10 Oct 42, sub: Letter 
of Instructions, USAFHRC Microfilm Collection, 650.01-2, MAFB; Craven 
and Cate, Europe: TORCH to POINTBLANK, 2:50-66. 

10. Memo, Arnold to Asst CofS, OPD, WD, 16 3ul 42, sub: Tactical Command of 
Army Air Units, H. H. Arnold Manuscript Collection, box 114, LOC. 

11. Eisenhower, Papers of Dwight David Eisenhower, 1:445 and 474 and 2:837; 
Msg, Adjutant General, WD, to CGs, 1 Oct 42, sub: Reassignment of Army 
Air Force Units, USAFHRC Microfilm Collection, 651.271, MAFB; Ltr, Maj 


Gen George S. Patton, Jr., to Brig Gen 3. K. Cannon, 10 Oct 42, sub: Letter 
of Instructions, USAFHRC Microfilm Collection, 650.01-2, MAFB; Craven 
and Cate, Europe: TORCH to POINTBLANK . 2:50-66. 

12. Ltr, Brig Gen Games H. Doolittle to Maj Gen George S. Patton, sub: Torch 
Air Support, 13 Sep 42, USAFHRC Microfilm Collection, 650.430-1 MAFB. 

13. HQ Center Task Force Plans, annex 5, "Paratroop Plan and Air Support Plan," 
4 Oct 42, USAFHRC Microfilm Collection, 650.03-2, MAFB. 

14. Craven and Cate, Europe: TORCH to POINTBLANK , 2:67-85; Howe, 
Northwest Africa , pp. 97-253. 

15. Ibid.; Commander-in-Chief's Dispatch, North African Campaign, 1942-1943, 
AFHQ, USAFHRC Microfilm Collection, 621.101-4, MAFB. 

16. Howe, Northwest Africa, pp. 277-346; Craven and Cate, Europe: TORCH to 
POINTBLANK . 2:78-85. 

17. Howe, Northwest Africa , pp. 277-98; Playfair, Destruction of the Axis 
Forces, 4:165-91; F. H. Hinsley, British Intelligence in the Second World War , 
2 vols. (London: Her Majesty's Sationery Office, 1984), 2:475-93; Craven and 
Cate, Europe: TORCH to POINTBLANK , 2:107-08. 

18. Craven and Cate, Europe: TORCH to POINTBLANK , 2:78-91; Greenfield, 
Army Ground Forces and Air-Ground Battle Team , p. 19; Howe, Northwest 
Africa , pp. 373-76; Rpt, Maj Gen Terry Allen, HQ, 1st Inf Div, 25 Dec 42, 
sub: Lessons From Operation Torch, USAFHRC Microfilm Collection, 
621.549-3, MAFB; Ltr, Brig Gen Paul M. Robinett to Marshall, North Africa, 
8 Dec 42, H. H. Arnold Manscript Collection, box 42, LOC. 

19. Howe, Northwest Africa , pp. 277-98; Playfair, Destruction of the Axis 
Forces . 4:165-91; Hinsley, British Intelligence in the Second World War , 
2:475-93; Craven and Cate, Europe: TORCH to POINTBLANK , 2:107-08. 

20. Craven and Cate, Europe: TORCH to POINTBLANK . 2:78-91; Greenfield, 
Army Ground Forces and Air-Ground Battle Team , p. 19; Howe, Northwest 
Africa , pp. 373-76. 

21. Howe, Northwest Africa , pp. 383-84; Craven and Cate, Europe: TORCH to 
POINTBLANK , 2:106-12; Arthur William Tedder, With Prejudice: The War 
Memoirs of Marshall of the Royal Air Force, Lord Tedder (Boston: Little, 
Brown, 1966), p. 370. 

22. Howe, Northwest Africa, pp. 376-82; Craven and Cate, Europe: TORCH to 
POINTBLANK , 2:108-12. 

23. Rpt, HQ, Twelfth Air Force, Brig Gen Hoyt S. Vandenberg, CofS, 6 3an 43, 
sub: XII Air Support Command, USAFHRC Microfilm Collection, 168.7043-5, 


24. Rpt, HQ, XII Air Support Command, Brig Gen H. A. Craig, Cdr, 6 Jan 43, sub: 
General Plan of Air Support in Operation "SATIN," HQ XII Air Support 
Command, USAFHRC Microfilm Collection 168.7043-5, MAFB. 

25. Craven and Gate, Europe: TORCH to FQINTBLANK, 2:132-45; Howe, 
Northwest Africa , pp. 374-87. 

26. Interv, Intelligence Service, USAAF, with Maj Gen L. E. Oliver, 5 Feb 43, 
USAFHRC Microfilm Collection 650.03.3, MAFB. 

27. Craven and Cate, Europe: TORCH to FQINTBLANK , 2:132-45; Memo, Maj 
Gen Carl Spaatz, 17 Jan 43, Carl Spaatz Manuscript Collection, box 10, LOC; 
Martin Blumenson, Kasserine Pass (Boston: Jove, 1966), pp. 84-86. 

28. Howe, Northwest Africa , pp. 383-84. Craven and Cate, Europe: TORCH to 
POINTBLANK , 2:142-45. 

29. Howe, Northwest Africa, pp. 386-400; Craven and Cate, Europe: TORCH to 
POINTBLANK, 2:142-43; War Department Basic Field Manual 31-35, Aviation 
in Support of Ground Forces, 9 Apr 42. 

30. Quoted words from Eisenhower, Papers of Dwight David Eisenhower , 2:904-05 
and 981-82. See also Howe, Northwest Africa , pp. 396-400. 

31. Eisenhower, Papers of Dwight David Eisenhower , 2:904-05. 

32. Craven and Cate, Europe: TORCH to POINTBLANK , 2:142-45; Howe, 
Northwest Africa , pp. 397-98; Report on Operations Conducted by XII Air 
Support Command, USAAF, Tunisia, 13 Jan 43 to 9 Apr 1943, p. 22, 
USAFHRC Microfilm Collection, 350.01-2, MAFB. 

33. Unless otherwise noted, discussion of the Kasserine Pass operations is based 
on Craven and Cate, Europe: TORCH to POINTBLANK , 2:113-15, 153-66, 
418; Howe, Northwest Africa , pp 401-59 and 492-95. 

34. 18th Army Group Operation Instruction no. 3, 1 Mar 43, USAFHRC Microfilm 
Collection, 612.4300, MAFB. 

35. Directives, Northwest Africa Tactical Air Force, 2 Mar 43, subs: The 
Employment of Air Forces in Support of Land Operations and Formation of 
Tactical Bomber Forces, USAFHRC Microfilm Collection, 612.4501, MAFB; 
Excerpts from HQ, MTAF, Report on Operations During the Campaign in 
Tunisia, USAFHRC Microfilm Collection, 614.4300, MAFB. 

36. Some Notes of the Use of Air Power in Support of Land Operations, Intro by 
B. L. Montgomery, December 1944, USAFHRC Microfilm Collection, 
168.6006-137, MAFB. 


37. Report of Tunisian Operations, XII Air Support Command, 10 Apr to 13 
May43, USAFHRC Microfilm Collection, 651.3069-1, MAFB. 

38. Tedder, With Prejudice , pp. 397-401 . 

39. Report of Tunisian Operations, XII Air Support Command, 10 Apr to 13 May 
43, USAFHRC Microfilm Collection, 651.3069-1, MAFB. 

40. Rpt, Spaatz, March 19*3, sub: Ground Air Support, USAFHRC Microfilm 
Collection, 612.4501, MAFB. 

Futrell, Ideas, p. 69; 

42. War Department Field Manual 100-20, Command and Employment of Air 
Power, 21 Jul 43. 

43. Ibid. 

44. Ibid. 

45. Ibid. 

46. Eisenhower, Papers of Dwight David Eisenhower , 2:1107 and 1196; Infantry 
School "Air Ground Training," The Mailing List , duly 1943, pp. 1-38. 

47. Craven and Cate, Europe: TORCH to POINTBLANK , 2:170-71. 

48. Press Conference, Brig Gen Laurence 5. Kuter, 22 May 43, USAFHRC 
Microfilm Collection, 614.505, MAFB. 

49. Ibid. 

50. Craven and Cate, Europe: TORCH to POINTBLANK . 2:145-53, 174-75, 182- 

51. Dispatch, Commander-in-Chief's Dispatch, North African Campaign, 1942- 
1943, AFHQ, USAFHRC Microfilm Collection, 621.101-4, MAFB; Albert F. 
Simpson, "Tactical Air Doctrine: Tunisia and Korea," Air University 
Quarterly Review 4 (Summer 1951): 7. 

52. Tedder, With Prejudice , pp. 409-12; Craven and Cate, Europe: TORCH to 
POINTBLANK , 2:176-77. 

53. Craven and Cate, Europe; TORCH to POINTBLANK , 2:145-53, 174-75, 182- 
96; George S. Patton, 3r., The Pattern Papers , ed. Martin Blurnenson, 2 vols. 
(Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1972-74), vol. 2, 1940-1945 (1974), pp. 203-08; 
Maj Gen Carl Spaatz Diary, April 1943, Spaatz Manuscript Collection, box 11, 


54. Report of Tunisian Operations, XII Air Support Command, 10 Apr to 13 May 
43, USAFHRC Microfilm Collection, 350.01-2, MAFB. 

55. Spaatz Diary, April 1943, Spaatz Manuscript Collection, box 11, LOC; 
Greenfield, Army Ground Forces and Air-Ground Battle Team , pp. 45 and 51. 

56. Report of Operations Conducted by XII Air Support Command, USAAF, 
Tunisia, 13 Jan 43 to 9 Apr 43, USAFHRC Microfilm Collection, 350.01-2, 

57. Martin Blumenson, Mark Clark (New York: Congdon <5c Weed, 1984), pp. 64-70 
and 118; War Department Field Manual 100-20, Command and Employment of 
Air Power, 21 Jul 43, p. 9. 



Eventually, the campaign in North Africa would be viewed as a sideshow to 
important campaigns that followed in Europe. For Americans, as well as the 
British, it was a serious training ground, offering both practical experience and 
valuable training in modern warfare. Even before the final Axis surrender in 
Tunisia the air leaders, Tedder, Spaatz, and Coningham, were writing their views of 
close air support for the Sicily campaign plans. Eisenhower and other Allied 
leaders broadly supported the third-priority concept for close air support and the 
need to gain air superiority before another invasion. Both before and during the 
early stages of the ground campaigns in Sicily and Italy Coningham's tactical air 
forces joined missions with Doolittle's strategic air forces to work on the first 
priorities, gaining air superiority and hampering the Axis supply lines. 

It remained to be seen how leaders viewed air support in this and other 
campaigns, how theater commanders concurred or differed with the principles and 
practices developed in North Africa, how the heightened interplay of air and 
ground doctrine was sorted out. Would the strong expression of air force tactical 
air principles survive? Would aircraft builders be able to answer the call for an 
effective fighter-bomber or observation aircraft, or would the vicissitudes of 
battle conditions change the requirements? Would communications technology 
provide better air-ground and command systems? Would better joint training, as 
promised by McNair and Arnold, help the relationship between air and ground 
personnel? With all the promises of improvement, how would close air support 
practices differ from those in North Africa? 


*U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE : 1987 - 191-127 : QL 3